On October 9th, 2016, I was back home in Detroit for a wedding of my childhood friend. I boarded the plane to head back to Houston, when mid-flight, a passenger became unresponsive. The flight crew called for a physician to assist in the emergency. After volunteering my assistance, I was met with resistance from the flight crew who did not believe that I was a doctor. I was interrogated and inundated with questions to substantiate my claim that I was a physician and still barred from assisting. While the passenger remained unresponsive, it was not until a middle aged white male physician came forward and was immediately allowed to render aid to the ill passenger. The passenger ended up doing well and was assisted off the plane by paramedics once we landed.
Knowing that this incident could have cost someone their life and that during a time of need, the flight crew preferred no help rather than the assistance of a passenger who “did not fit the description of a doctor”, I decided to escalate matters through the airlines chain of commands. Although I did not have my medical degree in my back pocket, I could have easily validated who I was from a brief online search of my credentials. After escalating this matter within the company, and little to no response from that plan of action, I shared my experience on social media.
This post went viral and sparked a movement, #WHATADOCTORLOOKSLIKE with hundreds of thousands of people all over the world sharing similar stories of when they have been discriminated against, specifically in the medical field.
Although overwhelming, the movement showed the world how often minorities face discrimination and bias in the workplace. With medical professionals of all genders, ethnicities, religion, age sharing pictures of themselves attached to the hashtag, #WHATADOCTORLOOKSLIKE, the world was able to see the diverse group of us in the field of medicine. This movement showed that we do exist and that there is no true prototype of what a doctor looks like.
The unfortunate fact that although we have finally closed the gender gap for physicians, that only 5% of physicians are African-American and only 2% of physicians are African-American women is disheartening. The mission of What a Doctor Looks Like Foundation is to “redefine the prototype”. By providing mentorship, scholarship, and community outreach opportunities for our youth, our non-profit organization is able to assist in diversifying the medical field. By achieving this goal, it will not be so uncommon or rare to see a female or person of color identify themselves as a physician. Please join us in our efforts to “redefine the prototype”!