A Black physician who tried to help a sick passenger on a Delta flight said her credentials were repeatedly questioned by flight attendants even AFTER she presented her medical license.
Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, who practices obesity medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, was on a flight from Indianapolis to Boston Tuesday when the woman seated next to her started showing signs of distress, The New York Times reported.
Stanford began treating the woman when a flight attendant approached and asked her if she was a doctor. Stanford reflexively produced her medical license, which she says she carries on her at all times, according to the report.
Her license shows that she is a physician registered in Massachusetts. The letters “M.D.” appear after her name.
She says she keeps her license with her because she knows she doesn’t “look the part” of a doctor, according to the report.
In 2016, another black doctor was asked to show credentials when she offered to help a sick Delta passenger.
Delta changed its policy that year to state that flight attendants would not be required to verify credentials for people identifying as physicians, physician assistants, nurses, paramedics, or emergency technicians.
The flight attendant looked at the document and walked away, while Stanford continued tending to the patient. Another flight attendant approached her and asked to see the license. She looked at it and also walked away. The pair then returned to interrogate the doctor.
“Are you a head doctor,” one flight attendant asked, according to the report. “Are you actually an M.D.?” the same flight attendant continued.
The second flight attendant asked if the license Stanford had produced actually belonged to her.
“Why would I carry someone else’s medical license?” Stanford said she replied, according to The Times.
Stanford’s case draws renewed attention to ongoing racial profiling across diverse settings.
Stanford said the incident was not unusual from her perspective. She said she’s often mistaken for support staff, and has been asked to clear messes from the emergency room. She says other black colleagues have had similar experiences.
This is something that the medical community has embraced as a reality,” she told The Times. “When you Google a doctor, most of the pictures that come up are of a white man.”
She regrets that her appearance sometimes leads people to distrust her.
“I should not be called into question about something I have worked for my entire life,” she said.
The flight attendants ultimately told Stanford “it seems like you were able to handle everything,” according to the report.
She claims she was a victim of racial bias because she was questioned even after providing proof that she was a licensed doctor.
“It never stopped. I just couldn’t figure out why we were having this discussion,” she said.
Delta apologized to Stanford and said it is investigating the incident. The flight attendants who questioned her work for Republic Airline, a Delta Connection partner.
She tweeted her dissatisfaction with the airline’s response, writing that her “accomplishments do not shield from racism” on social media. “I left the conversation quite uncertain that any changes will be made,” she said, after speaking with a Delta representative.
Republic apologized for “any misunderstanding that may have occurred during her exchange with our in-flight crew.”
They need to issue a formal apology and give her ALL the flight vouchers.