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“WhatADoctorLooksLike” is a hashtag created shortly after the story of Dr. Tamika Cross’ experience on a Delta Airlines flight went viral on social media. Dr. Tamika Cross, a young black physician from Houston, was on a Delta Airlines flight headed from Detroit to Houston in early October. While in flight, a passenger required emergency care. Dr. Cross’ attempt to aid the passenger in need was stopped by a flight attendant who not only asked to see Dr. Cross' credentials, but also asked Dr. Cross, "what type of doctor are you?" and "where do you work?". Unlike Dr. Cross, a white male on board, who only stated that he was a physician, was allowed access to assist the passenger without any questions about his training or credentials. Dr. Cross shares her experience and recounts the details of what happened during the flight in a Facebook post.

"Whether this was race, age, gender discrimination, it's not right."
-Tamika Cross, MD

NEPO member organization and two-time Frank Staggers Sr., MD, Outstanding Ethnic Physician Organization Awardee, the Association of Black Women Physicians (ABWP), quickly responded to the incident with a letter to the CEO of Delta Airlines, stressing the importance of honest dialogue to “effectively address the negative impact of unconscious/implicit bias” and offered their assistance.

Dr. Cross’ story brought attention to an issue that many physicians of color face regularly, and highlights the importance of organizations like NEPO and member organizations like ABWP in addressing issues that impact physicians and communities of color. NEPO engages in projects and activities that help to highlight that “WhatADoctorLooksLike” is as diverse as California itself. 

NEPO and NEPO member organizations are working to bring issues like unconscious bias to light. These issues are tremendously important to patient care and health outcomes, yet are not raised often enough in medical training, continuing education, and conferences. At the 2016 NEPO Building Healthy Communities Summit, Dr. Rene Salazar, Assistant Dean for Diversity at Dell Medical School and a nationally recognized expert on unconscious bias in health, led a session about how unconscious bias impacts physician well-being and contributes to health disparities. Rather than try and eliminate unconscious bias, he stressed the importance of acknowledging that we all have bias and make assumptions. The key, he said, is to work to recognize bias and put processes in place to counter those biases. To learn more about unconscious bias, you can view Dr. Salazar’s slides on the Building Healthy Communities web site.

NEPO encourages physicians to use the hashtag #WhatADoctorLooksLike. We salute the efforts of ABWP in their letter to Delta and will continue to work to highlight that NEPO too is #WhatADoctorLooksLike.   

This article was taken from the NEPO News - Fall 2016. You can sign up to recieve the NEPO News E-Newsletter here!

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