Black Doctor Says She Was Racially Profiled While Trying To Help Sick Passenger

By Sharelle Burt


Black people can’t even help others without having their credentials brought into question.


Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, a medical doctor and expert on obesity, said that she was racially profiled on a Delta flight Tuesday after a woman sitting next to her began shaking and hyperventilating. Stanford said she was already aiding the passenger when a flight attendant came by to check the situation. The doctor told CNN that the flight attendant asked if Stanford was a doctor and she replied yes.


That wasn’t good enough. As Stanford, who practices at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, continued to help the passenger in need, another flight attendant came over to see what was going on. This attendant, however, asked to see her medical license. Then things got weird. Stanford said after that, both flight attendants came back, questioned her credentials and asked if the medical license she was carrying belonged to her.


We can’t make this stuff up. Stanford said the whole experience shocked her. “The validity of me as a physician is being called into question,” Stanford said of the experience. After the passenger was stabilized, she decided to share her story on Twitter, directing her anger at Delta.


“I am very disappointed that your policies on #Diversity have not lead to any change. As a #blackwoman #doctor who showed my #medical license to help a passenger on DL5935 your #flightattendant still did not believe I was a #Physician,” Stanford tweeted at Delta.

Continuing her tweet series, Stanford wrote that her accomplishments do not “shield her from racism.” Delta not only responded to the tweets but sent an email and called her the very next day. “I am so sorry for your frustration, Dr. Stanford. Please know that Delta does not condone discrimination for any reason and we take your comments very seriously. We are looking into further and will be reaching out to you directly,” Delta tweeted.

Anthony Black, a spokesman for Delta, confirmed the airline reached out to Stanford as part of an investigation. In a statement, Black said the flight attendants claim they “initially misread the credentials offered by the doctor and went to reconfirm her specific medical discipline.”


Black added that “we are following up with the crew to ensure the proper policy is followed. Dr. Stanford’s care for the passenger remained uninterrupted throughout the duration of the medical issue.” While the swift response was appropriate, Stanford wasn’t satisfied. Her story prompted other medical professionals to share their stories of mistreatment while in the air. No shocker there.


Dr. Tamika Cross, a black gynecologist, shared in a Facebook that she too was discriminated against on a Delta flight when attendants refused to let her help a man that was unresponsive. Cross’ post went viral, along with the hashtag #whatadoctorlookslike.


Tiffani Bell, a physician in Winston-Salem, NC, says that discrimination causes all sorts of problems for black physicians and medical experts.


“As a physician, this discrimination can cause problems for our patients and other bystanders when emergencies arise in unusual locations like airplanes,” Bell tells Travel Noire. “It saddens me that another well-trained minority physician has been discriminated against while attempting to provide care to a distressed passenger on the flight. We, physicians, offer help to those in need in emergency situations out of the kindness and compassion of our hearts.”


Bell is also saddened by the fact that Stanford and other professionals of color continue to have discrimination based on how they look. “To be denied an opportunity to help because she didn’t look like a doctor is absurd,” Bell said. “In 2018, one would hope that our paradigms of what a physician looks like would have changed.”


TN’s owns travel hacks writer DeAnna Taylor mentions that even attorneys face similar problems. “I’ve been there as a lawyer. Stopped in courthouses and asked to prove who I am with silly demands,” Taylor reminisces.


Standford’s story recently landed her a gig as the keynote speaker at a conference hosted by Massachusetts Medical Society on the topic of gender and bias in medicine. Stanford’s story has helped many realize that these experiences are why representation is so important.
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