#BMIM | The Bittersweet Irony
The year is 2017 and I am the primary physician working in the Emergency Department at my primary site in Springfield, TN. The next available patient on the tracking board is a female patient between the age of 20-30 with abdominal pain and stable vital signs. This chief complaint is the bread and butter of any Emergency Medicine Provider so I quickly sign-up for the patient, grab my scribe and go to the room. Sitting on the bed is a Caucasian Woman with a hospital wrist band, identifying her as the patient, with her is her African-American female partner discussing something mundane. I politely interrupt them and give my standard introduction that I deliver to every patient:
“Hello, my name is Dr. Anani. My first name is Love, most people call me some form of that. This is my scribe and they take notes for me, so I don’t forget anything. What brings you in to the ED today?”
Before the patient can finish her small chuckle about my name being Dr. Love (about 85% of patients do this and I don’t mind. It’s a great ice breaker), her partner jumps in and asks, “You’re the doctor?” I tell her that I am, and she gasps. The accompanying surprise on her face was photo worthy. The patient taps her partner and tells her to stop “acting up” and she responds “but you got a brother for a doctor. I’ve NEVER seen that before.” I smile, holding back my own shock at the statement, and let her know not only will I be the doctor for the evening, but I am also the department medical director and “boss”. Her face contorted as to demand a second picture and my scribe smiles and nods to confirm my self-affirming statement. The room feels lighter for a second and I turn the focus back to the patient.
Fast forward 2 hours later and I give the patient her diagnosis and discuss her prescriptions. Both parties thank me and as I walk to the door the patient’s partner yells out “keep doing you brother.” The rest of the evening, in the words of Kanye West, “you couldn’t tell me nothing.”
I choose this story as the topic for my blog because of this irony: In 2017, a young woman in an interracial same-sex partnership in the South was more shocked at the sight of a Black Male in Medicine. Interactions like these, whether with the young or old, reaffirm why I strive to be a great physician. I primarily want to give the best care to my patients, but I also hope to end the drought of black men in medicine. I would never believe my work could single-handedly change the numbers, but I hope my story and presence can encourage another young “brother” to make the decision to enter the best profession there is. However, according to the latest statistics the number of black males applying to medical schools has dropped precipitously. I’ve personally had many struggles getting to this point with finances, testing, and simple sleep deprivation, but each one has been worth it for the lives I’ve changed through medicine or simply by being in medicine. I can only hope that this blog, and my commitment to mentorship bring awareness to black men in medicine and reverses the current trend.
– Love –