When I got my first position, I was relatively young and African-American. I think there were subtle things about doubting my decision making or my thoughts around expertise in administration. Nothing overt, quite honestly, but certainly little subtle looks or digs, people questioning, or occasionally people would try to go around you because they didn’t trust your judgement or believe you. The other thing is—and Marcus and Lynne will probably tell you the same thing—there’s always the challenge of, you’re African American, you know you are, and you feel like oftentimes you carry the weight of the race on you a little bit. You’re always trying to prove yourself, work extra-hard, and be twice as good but hoping that you’re doing things well so that people don’t condemn the race because you didn’t do something well.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 36 – No 11 – November 2017
KK: I appreciate you sharing that with us. Marcus, your perspective?
MM: Having role models, and a couple people come to mind right away—Glen Hamilton and Richard Levy, among others at the University of Cincinnati, were great role models—they got me involved on the national scene. I initially became president of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM) around 2001, and I was president of the Council of Emergency Medicine Residency Directors (CORD) in the late ’90s. In both of those cases, I was the first African-American to be in that office, and served on the boards for SAEM and CORD, each for 12 years. While I was at Allegheny, I worked on the Council of Residency Directors’ logo, the one with the apple. That was a joy to see come to fruition. Ultimately, we established the Academy of Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Medicine, and I was one of the founding members.
Just as Leon said, the things that tend to face minorities are being confronted with implicit biases or microaggressions, things that tend to happen on a day-to-day basis. First, as physicians, we practice the art of medicine, and as we practice, we try not to permit any human variation to get in the way or to cause us to do anything but the right thing by the patients. Human variations should not interfere with our duty to patients, inclusive of religion, race, ethnicity, any social standing, low-income patients, sexual orientation, ability, or disability. I feel very strongly about that. Anyone who comes into the emergency department or passes out in the street, it is my duty to help. But we’re in times now when we have white supremacy groups—as you all are probably aware, about 600 members of the alt-right, Unite the Right, white supremacy, KKK that violated our grounds here at the University of Virginia and the city of Charlottesville, resulting in three people who died. You would think that we would not be faced with these kind of challenges these days. These are real aggressions, and there are certain microaggressions that are subtle. I’ve been called the N-word while seeing patients in the emergency department. In some cases, the patient may be demented, but in other cases, the patient turns out to be a racist. I have not been deterred by it. I’ve been able to work through it and perhaps have someone else see a patient and come back to me. Then I’ll go back and let them know I’m the person in charge.