Black female doctors took over their colleagues' Twitter accounts for a day to help amplify race-related issues in medicine.

By Renee Cherry
June 23, 2020
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Earlier this month, as part of the #ShareTheMicNow campaign, white women handed over their Instagram handles to influential Black women so they could share their work with a new audience. This week, a spinoff called #ShareTheMicNowMed brought a similar initiative to Twitter feeds.

On Monday, Black female physicians took over the Twitter accounts of non-Black female physicians to help amplify their platforms.

#ShareTheMicNowMed was organized by Arghavan Salles, M.D., Ph.D., a bariatric surgeon and scholar in residence at Stanford University School of Medicine. Ten Black female doctors with a range of specialties—including psychiatry, primary care, neuroplastic surgery, and more—took over "the mic" to speak out about race-related issues in medicine that deserve bigger platforms.

It's not hard to guess why the physicians wanted to bring the concept of #ShareTheMicNow to their field. The percentage of physicians in the U.S. who are Black is extremely low: Only 5 percent of active physicians in the U.S. in 2018 identified as Black, according to stats from the Association of American Medical Colleges. Plus, research suggests that this gap can negatively affect Black patients' health outcomes. For example, one study suggests that Black men tend to opt for more preventive services (read: routine health screenings, check-ups, and counseling) when seeing a Black doctor than a non-Black doctor. (Related: Nurses Are Marching with Black Lives Matter Protesters and Providing First Aid Care)

During their #ShareTheMicNowMed Twitter takeovers, many physicians pointed out the country's lack of Black doctors, as well as what must be done to change this disparity. To give you an idea of what else they discussed, here's a sampling of the matchups and convos that resulted from #ShareTheMicNowMed:

Ayana Jordan, M.D., Ph.D. and Arghavan Salles, M.D., Ph.D.

Ayana Jordan, M.D., Ph.D. is an addiction psychiatrist and assistant professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine. During her participation in #ShareTheMicNowMed, she shared a thread on the topic of deconstructing racism in academia. Some of her suggestions: "appoint BIPOC faculty to tenure committees" and put funding toward "undoing-racism seminars for all faculty, including volunteer faculty." (Related: Accessible and Supportive Mental Health Resources for Black Womxn)

Dr. Jordan also retweeted posts encouraging the destigmatization of addiction treatment. Alongside a retweet of a post calling for journalists to stop interviewing law enforcement officials about fentanyl overdoses, she wrote: "If we truly want to destigmatize treatment for addiction WE HAVE [to] decriminalize drug use. Why is it OK to interview law enforcement about fentanyl? Would that be appropriate for hypertension? Diabetes?"

Fatima Cody Stanford, M.D. and Julie Silver, M.D.

Another doctor who participated in #ShareTheMicNowMed, Fatima Cody Stanford, M.D., is an obesity medicine physician and scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. You may recognize her from a story she shared about a time she experienced racial bias that went viral in 2018. She was assisting a passenger who was showing signs of distress on a Delta flight, and flight attendants repeatedly questioned whether she was actually a doctor, even after she showed them her credentials.

Throughout her career, Dr. Stanford has noticed a pay gap between Black women and white women—a disparity she highlighted in her #SharetheMicNowMed takeover. "This is so true!" she wrote alongside a retweet about the pay gap. "@fstanfordmd has experienced that #unequalpay is standard if you are a Black woman in medicine despite significant qualifications."

Dr. Stanford also shared a petition calling to rename a Harvard Medical School society named after Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (a physician whose social commentary often promoted "violence toward Black and Indigenous peoples," according to the petition). "As a member of the @harvardmed faculty, it is important to note that we must have societies that reflect the diversity of the population," wrote Dr. Stanford.

Rebekah Fenton, M.D. and Lucy Kalanithi, M.D.

#ShareTheMicNowMed also included Rebekah Fenton, M.D., a medical fellow at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. During her Twitter takeover, she talked about the importance of dismantling system racism in education. "Many say, 'system is broken', but systems, including medical education, were designed this way," she wrote in a thread. "Every system is designed to give the results you actually get. It is no accident that the 1st Black woman physician came 15 YEARS after the 1st white woman." (Related: Tools to Help You Uncover Implicit Bias—Plus, What That Actually Means)

Dr. Fenton also took some time to talk about the Black Lives Matter movement and, specifically, her experience working alongside students to remove police from schools. "Let's talk advocacy! #BlackLivesMatter has brought national attention to the needs," she tweeted. "I love how @RheaBoydMD says equity is the minimum standard; we need to love Black people. For me that love looks like advocating for #policefreeschools in Chicago."

She also shared a link to a Medium article she wrote about why she and other Black healthcare providers often feel invisible at work. "Our specialties are questioned. Our expertise is denied. We're told our strengths are not valued and our efforts don't align with 'current priorities'," she wrote in the piece. "We're expected to conform to a culture that was created long before our demands to be let in were heard."

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