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Delta: Another Case of Doctor Discrimination?

Last week, JET published the story of Dr. Tamika Cross, a Black OBGYN who says she was discriminated against when attempting to assist an ill passenger on a Delta Airlines flight.

Another Black female doctor has come forward with claims that she, too, was discriminated against by members of the airline’s staff.

“It was supposed to be a relaxed flight,” Dr. Ashley Denmark, D.O. wrote on Melanin in MedicineDenmark, who described herself as a wife and mother of two, said she is completing her second year of family medicine residency.

She was traveling to Hawaii last week for a destination wedding when a flight attendant requested a doctor or nurse about 1 hour into her flight.

“When duty calls it calls- even if you are 30,000 feet in air,” Denmark wrote. “Without hesitation, I got out of my seat and made my way towards the front of the cabin where I was greeted by two Caucasian women and a delta flight attendant. I quickly asked ‘What’s going on?’ Then I stated, ‘I’m a doctor. How can I help?’”

Denmark says  she was immediately greeted with “puzzled looks” from all three women.

“The flight attendant asked, ‘Are you a doctor?’ to which I replied, ‘Yes.’ My response only left a more puzzled look on the attendant’s face. She turned around and began to talk to another flight attendant. I stood there in bewilderment because someone on the plane was in need of medical assistance and no one was escorting me to the passenger in need. Finally, one of the Caucasian passengers who came to assist spoke and stated her and the other passenger present to assist were both nurses. Then she asked, ‘Are you a doctor?’ to which I responded, ‘Yes’ …..again. She immediately responded, ‘Well you need credentials to show you are a medical professional.’ I gave a funny look but, remained composed and quickly quipped ‘I have my hospital badge which should be enough.’”

Denmark said the flight attendant then turned around to address them again by inquiring from the two nurses what field of medicine they worked in. Denmark said that at this point, she had been standing for four minutes and had yet to see the passenger in need of medical assistance.

“The Delta flight attendant continued to look puzzled then stated, ‘We have two nurses here who came first. You can have a seat now and we will let them handle it. If we need more help we will come and find you.’ Wait a minute- stop the presses! What just happened?!?! I advised that I was a doctor who was licensed to provide medical care. Instead of being escorted to the passenger in need of help, I was directed to return to my seat and told that the two nurses could take care of the situation.”

Denmark was bewildered at the airline staff’s decision to allow two nurses to treat a patient instead of a qualified medical physician. But unfortunately, she was not surprised.

“As an African American female physician, I am too familiar with this scenario,” she wrote. “Despite overcoming and excelling academically and obtaining the title of Dr. in front of my name, I still get side-eye glances when I introduce myself as Dr. Denmark.  Commonly, I’m mistaken for an assistant, janitor, secretary, nurse, student, etc even when I have my white coat on; I’m called these names more frequently than I would like instead of Dr.”

“But this is 2016 not 1960,” Denmark continued. “It’s time for Americans who practice these kinds of behaviors to elevate their social consciousness and realize that African Americans are just as equally talented and capable of holding any job in this land. This incident with Delta Airlines just shines the light on how often times African American doctors and other professionals like myself endure discrimination.”