Update: Delta has released an official statement regarding the incident.
Delta Air Lines is under fire for a recent incident, where a flight attendant allegedly refused an African American physician’s assistance during an in-flight incident, because the flight attendant didn’t believe the passenger was a doctor.
Tamika Cross MD, was on flight DL 945 from Detroit, when a woman screamed for help because her husband had become unresponsive. Cross jumped up to help, but was told by the flight attendant to “stay calm” because it was just night terror.
After the man became unresponsive once again, the flight attendant decided to call for a doctor onboard via the PA system. Cross raised her hand to offer assistance, but was allegedly told, “Oh no sweetie put your hand down. We are looking for actual physicians or nurses or some type of medical personnel; we don’t have time to talk to you.”
The flight attendants formally paged for a doctor, and Cross pressed the button again to offer assistance. A flight attendant apparently demanded to see her credentials, and asked a string of questions, including her specialty, associated facility, and reason for being in Detroit. Meanwhile, another (male) physician arrived to offer help, which the flight attendant accepted without further questions.
Later during the flight, the flight attendant asked Cross for input regarding the ill passenger’s medical work up, and apologized for the incident. Cross also reported that the flight attendant offered SkyMiles as a gesture, but Cross refused and decided to escalate the issue.
Cross’ Facebook post now has over 25,000 shares and 66,000 likes. Over the past few days, Delta’s Facebook page has been flooded with visitors’ comments regarding the incident. Delta has not made any official press releases regarding the incident, other than respond to selected post with this statement:
Discrimination of any kind is never acceptable. As soon as this was brought to our attention we immediately reported this to the Leadership team and made a public statement later on that day. We have been working non-stop to address this internally with the highest priority and have been in contact with Dr. Cross. One of our senior leaders has reached out to assure her that we’re completing a full investigation. We appreciate your attention to this, and look forward to serving you in the future.
Cross appears to have been a OB/Gyn resident physician at University of Toledo Health, but is now a resident at the University of Texas Health Science Center. You can read Cross’ full account from Facebook here.
As with every story, I am sure there are more to what meets the eyes, and there are so many factors at play here. As someone whose appearance often leads to patients questioning my credibility, I can absolutely personally sympathize with the frustration in offering sincere help but being shot down.
Ultimately, I don’t think many passengers will knowingly offer unqualified medical help. If Cross’ account is accurate, in an emergency situation, the flight attendant should probably have accepted the help first. Cross’ assistance could have been life-saving, and if she wasn’t actually capable, it would likely have become evident immediately upon her assessment of the situation.
But by the same token, in an emergency situation, there’s also not a whole lot of room for mistakes. This is, of course, not my questioning of Cross’ credentials and ability, but may have been the flight attendant’s. Where exactly the flight attendant’s doubts about Dr. Cross’ ability came from likely lies the the crux of the problem.
I’m sure many of my fellow young, corporate America working women of color can all understand my frustration when I say I’m sick of being disrespected.
Was on Delta flight DL945 and someone 2 rows in front of me was screaming for help. Her husband was unresponsive. I naturally jumped into Doctor mode as no one else was getting up. Unbuckle my seatbelt and throw my tray table up and as I’m about to stand up, flight attendant says “everyone stay calm, it’s just a night terror, he is alright”. I continue to watch the scene closely.
A couple mins later he is unresponsive again and the flight attendant yells “call overhead for a physician on board”. I raised my hand to grab her attention. She said to me “oh no sweetie put ur hand down, we are looking for actual physicians or nurses or some type of medical personnel, we don’t have time to talk to you” I tried to inform her that I was a physician but I was continually cut off by condescending remarks.
Then overhead they paged “any physician on board please press your button”. I stare at her as I go to press my button. She said “oh wow you’re an actual physician?” I reply yes. She said “let me see your credentials. What type of Doctor are you? Where do you work? Why were you in Detroit?” (Please remember this man is still in need of help and she is blocking my row from even standing up while Bombarding me with questions).
I respond “OBGYN, work in Houston, in Detroit for a wedding, but believe it or not they DO HAVE doctors in Detroit. Now excuse me so I can help the man in need”. Another “seasoned” white male approaches the row and says he is a physician as well. She says to me “thanks for your help but he can help us, and he has his credentials”. (Mind you he hasn’t shown anything to her. Just showed up and fit the “description of a doctor”) I stay seated. Mind blown. Blood boiling. (Man is responding the his questions and is seemingly better now Thank God)
Then this heifer has the nerve to ask for my input on what to do next about 10 mins later. I tell her we need vitals and blood sugar. She comes back to report to me a BP of 80/50 (super low, to my non medical peeps) and they can’t find a glucometer. We continue down that pathway of medical work up, but the point is she needed my help and I continued to help despite the choice words I had saved up for her. The patient and his wife weren’t the problem, they needed help and we were mid flight.
She came and apologized to me several times and offering me skymiles. I kindly refused. This is going higher than her. I don’t want skymiles in exchange for blatant discrimination. Whether this was race, age, gender discrimination, it’s not right. She will not get away with this….and I will still get my skymiles….
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