When Race and Gender Intersect in Medicine: Microaggressions for Doctors

  • Onyeka Otugo, an emergency medicine doctor, was often mistaken for a janitor or food service worker, even after introducing herself as a doctor. She goes on to say that people would often ask her when the doctor was coming and ask her to take the trash out.
  • Phindile Chowa, an assistant professor of emergency medicine, describes one patient who repeatedly forgot her name while quickly learning the name of her white male colleague during the course of her hospital visit.
  • Damon Tweedy, in an article he wrote for the New York Times, described a patient telling him to “go back to Africa,” and his white supervisor said and did nothing once he was told about it.
  • Only 5 percent of the American physician work force is African American, and roughly 2 percent are Black women.
  • Only 3 percent of emergency medicine doctors identify as Black.
  • Just 7 percent of the student population at American medical schools are Black.
  • Publish the experiences of microaggressions for Black female physicians, as was recently done by four female physicians of color in a paper in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. The authors Dr. Melanie Molina, Dr. Adaira Landry, Dr. Anita Chary, and Dr. Sherri-Ann Burnett-Bowie hope to reduce the sense of isolation of Black women doctors by shining a light on microaggression. They also hope their work will raise the awareness of their white colleagues who will change their own behavior and become white allies.
  • Continue to diversify emergency medicine departments to reduce the isolation of Black doctors and to amplify their voices.
  • Conduct training of doctors and physician educators on implicit bias, and evaluate their behavior in tangible and accountable ways.
  • Root out the racism still deeply entrenched in the cultures and curriculum of medical schools.

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Anne Litwin

Anne Litwin

Author of ‘New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together', OD Consultant, Keynote Speaker, and Workshop Trainer