Black Man in a White Coat Response

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    I think Damon Tweedy’s Black Man in a White Coat touches on some of the material covered in lecture on Wednesday. While being a medical professional, Tweedy also possesses and acknowledges a medical humanities side of himself, as evident by his writing a narrative. His book interweaves facts and statistics regarding illness and race (more of a public health type content) with personal illness narratives that highlight the illness experiences of individuals that he has treated. In the vignettes that Tweedy writes, he touches on the emotional aspects of being ill, both for the patient and the healthcare professional. All of the vignettes tie into a larger analysis of the healthcare system and how cracks in the system have allowed minority groups to slip through. One of the most shocking moments of the book was when Tweedy was in Atlanta riding around in the ambulance with two EMTs. They discussed how hospitals could not turn away patients once they had arrived, but the hospitals had influence over who could be transported via ambulance to their emergency departments. Honestly, I think the injustice of this action is understated in the book. Although Tweedy gave faces and experiences to emphasize healthcare inequality, this practice is an equal culprit when it comes to the infringement of medical care. Tweedy acknowledges that “a big part of the solution is discarding your assumption and connecting with each patient as a person…this approach is often called cultural competence, but after years of medical practice, it seems to me more like common sense” (Tweedy 245). In this quote, the author simultaneously addresses healthcare inequality from both a public health and a medical humanities perspective. He draws attention to the power in acknowledging an individual, and how this approach could help an entire marginalized group. This was an especially hopeful note for the book to end on, and an especially helpful one in light of the recent global health crisis.


    I agree with your comment that I also did not know that this is the way the system worked. This made me immediately think about how overcrowded Grady Memorial hospital was described to be but there was no other place for these people to go unless they had the right insurance. Tweedy also outlines how different his experience was at Duke with his experience at Grady and with the EMTs. He reflects on himself as a doctor when the EMTs have to help someone in a domestic violence situation. He thinks to himself “was it my medical training that caused me to see him as a list of potential health problems rather than an individual? Or was it the many ways in which I’d been indoctrinated by both white and black people, throughout my life, to see poor blacks as inferior and susceptible to so many problems? My reaction troubled me. What good came from thinking this way?” (Tweedy, 99). I think this quote connects to the concept of individual experiences that we have talked about so much in class and that you mention above. Tweedy himself asks what good comes from assuming people have health conditions instead of looking at each person individually? How does this influence how doctors care for their patients? These are important questions that require the narratives of each patient to fully understand.

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