In 2016, the case of Dr. Tamika Cross, a black female physician whose credentials were questioned by Delta flight attendants during an in-flight medical emergency, led to the airline initiating inclusion training and policy change. This week, another black female doctor says the same thing happened to her.
Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford was on an uneventful Delta flight on Tuesday night when she noticed that the passenger sitting next to her appeared to have fallen ill, presenting with shakes and hyperventilation. Stanford, a black female doctor who teaches at Harvard Medical School and practices medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, flagged down a flight attendant and presented her medical license, offering to assist her seatmate.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that instead of granting permission, the flight attendant asked another colleague to double check Stanford’s license. Stanford reports that the second flight attendant then said to her, “You’re not really a doctor, you’re just a head doctor…. You’re not really an MD, are you?”
If this story sounds familiar, it might be because another black female physician was questioned about her credentials on a Delta flight two years ago. Dr. Tamika Cross alleged that the airline had shown racial bias after flight attendants refused her help in a medical emergency, turning to a white male doctor instead. The incident drew national attention, with other physicians of color and white female physicians sharing their stories of experiencing bias via the viral hashtag #whatdoesadoctorlooklike, and led to Delta instituting a policy change wherein their flight attendants are no longer required to request proof of credentials from medical professionals who can assist in an emergency.
It's happened to me too https://t.co/xaMuDHrlZW
& the sick passengers suffer 🤢
— Wen Dombrowski MD MBA (@HealthcareWen) November 5, 2018
Stanford felt a strange sense of déjà vu as well; she had attended a conference on medical bias just two weeks prior to her flight, where Cross was the keynote speaker. In fact, Stanford says, after hearing Cross’s story, “I began to make sure that I was always equipped with my license.” She adds that she was disappointed that “my value and worth in that situation was questioned” while attempting to assist a fellow passenger.
When asked for comment, Delta issued the following statement: “We thank Dr. Stanford for her medical assistance and are sorry for any misunderstanding that may have occurred.”