Black Woman Says Flight Attendant Didn’t Believe She Was a Doctor: ‘We Are Looking for Actual Physicians’

Dr. Tamika Cross.
Dr. Tamika Cross. 

When a passenger lost consciousness on a recent Delta flight from Detroit to Minneapolis, physician Tamika Cross instinctively jumped into doctor mode. There was just one problem: A flight attendant allegedly refused to believe Cross was an actual MD.

The Ob-Gyn at the University of Texas-Houston chronicled her experience on Sunday, October 9, in a now viral Facebook post. “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,” she began.

Cross said she volunteered to provide aid to the man in distress, but was dismissed by a flight attendant. “She said to me, ‘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,’” Cross wrote. “I tried to inform her that I was an actual physician but I was continually cut off by condescending remarks.”

Cross claimed the flight attendant began “bombarding” her with questions and demanded to see her credentials. “Please remember this man is still in need of help and she is blocking my row from even standing up,” Cross vented. “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.’”

Delta Airlines
Delta Airlines Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The 28-year-old continued: “Mind you he hasn’t shown anything to her. Just showed up and fit the ‘description of doctor.’ I stay seated. Mind blown. Blood boiling. (Man is responding [to] his questions and is seemingly better now Thank God.)”

Cross said the flight attendant later apologized and offered Sky Miles. “I kindly refused. This is going higher than her,” Cross wrote. “I don’t want sky miles 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 sky miles…”

Delta announced an investigation on Thursday, October 13. “Discrimination of any kind is never acceptable,” Delta spokeswoman Catherine Sirna said in a statement. “We’ve been in contact with Dr. Cross and one of our senior leaders is reaching out to assure her that we’re completing a full investigation.”

Cross’ post has been shared nearly 38,000 times and received more than 15,000 comments. 

UPDATE:

Delta released additional information about the ongoing investigation via their website on Friday, October 14. “Three medical professionals identified themselves on the flight in question,” the statement reads. “Only one was able to produce documentation of medical training and that is the doctor who was asked to assist the customer onboard.”

The statement continues: “Flight attendants are trained to collect information from medical volunteers offering to assist with an onboard emergency. When an individual’s medical identification isn’t available, they’re instructed to ask questions such as where medical training was received or whether an individual has a business card or other documentation and ultimately to use their best judgment.

"We are troubled by any accusations of discrimination and take them very seriously. The experience Dr. Cross has described is not reflective of Delta’s culture or of the values our employees live out every day."

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