It is well documented that Blacks are disadvantaged when it comes to healthcare outcomes. In fact, African Americans are more likely to suffer from serious illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, prostate cancer, HIV, stroke and other deadly diseases. Even the life expectancy for Black men and Black women is less than their White counterparts, according to The New York Times.
In addition to the health disadvantages that Blacks face, there are disproportionately fewer Blacks in the health profession. CBS News reports that Blacks make up 13 percent of the population, but account for only 4 percent of doctors nationwide.
All of these topics are explored by Dr. Damon Tweedy in his new book Black Man In A White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine. Tweedy is an associate professor of psychiatry at Duke University and explains in detail about how race disparity in the healthcare system negatively affects Black people.
Tweedy appeared on the Sept. 8 episode of “CBS This Morning,” where he explained how his book takes a personal look at how being a minority can be bad for your health. In the interview he recalled a time when he did rotations at a voluntary clinic 90 minutes from where he went to medical school at Duke University. He quickly noted that all the patients were Black and none had health insurance.
“It was pretty clear from the very beginning that we couldn’t provide the adequate care for them. They couldn’t afford the medications, the lab tests or any other treatments they needed,” Tweedy said.
In a Sept. 6 interview with NPR’s Linda Wertheimer, Tweedy recalls experiencing humiliation when as a fledgling medical school student, a professor mistook him for a maintenance worker and was surprised that he was a student in the class.
“And when I told him, you know, that I’m actually a student in his class, he looked at me very baffled, like someone was playing a joke on him, and just walked away. And so at the time, it was very hurtful and created a lot of self-doubt,” Tweedy said.
However, Tweedy continued, he used that experience as fuel to show everyone that he belonged in medical school. According to the Charlotte Observer, Tweedy attended Duke University in 1996 on a full scholarship and said he experienced prejudice from patients and professors. He even was mistaken for being a Duke basketball player.
Tweedy’s story is also one of overcoming obstacles. Tweedy’s parents were blue-collar workers who didn’t have a high school education.
Tweedy said he is in favor of increasing the number of Black doctors, and of physicians being involved in the political process, referring to retired Johns Hopkins surgeon Dr. Ben Carson.