Hashtag #IAmYourDoctor Goes Viral - Exposes Stereotypes In Healthcare
By Chaunie Brusie
Raise your hand if you’re a medical professional who has ever been told, “But you look so young!” by a panicked patient who is suddenly looking to the doorway, hoping to see the “real” professional walk in.
Yup, been there.
There is little as frustrating as being a medical caregiver who has to not only deliver patient care but first convince your patient that you’re even competent to deliver said care in the first place. To combat the many different stereotypes that exist in the medical community, from those who look too young to those who look too “different,” the hashtag #IAmYourDoctor is trending all over social media.
When the entire medical community, nurses, doctors, and staff can join together in celebrating all of the different types of faces that serve, then everyone benefits, am I right or am I right?
How it all started
The hashtag was started by Earl V. Campbell III, M.D., Chief Gastroenterology Fellow at Yale, who explained that he started the campaign to show that doctors come in all colors, genders, ages, and cultures.
“It’s kind of ironic to think that we’ve had a black president, but it’s still so shocking for people when they realize the black man standing in front of them is a physician,” he wrote of his own experience. “At the same time, I am aware that we make up a tiny percentage of physicians, and someone could easily go through their entire life without ever meeting a black physician. The beauty of social media is its far reach and ability to expose others to what they may not have been exposed to otherwise.”
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#IAmYourDoctor . Me: “Hello, nice to meet you. I’m Dr. Campbell.” . Patient: “Hello. How much longer?” . Me: “Until what?” . Patient: “Until I see the doctor.” . Me: “I am the doctor.” . Patient: “Oh! Sorry, I must’ve missed that part.” . This is just one of countless similar interactions I’ve had with various patients and their families over the years. I’ve been given food requests from the menu when I walked into a patient’s room. I’ve been asked by a patient’s family if I’m there to take their loved one down to MRI. I’ve been mistaken for numerous other personnel in the hospital. The purpose of this campaign is to show that doctors come in all colors, genders, ages, etc. It’s kind of ironic to think that we’ve had a black president, but it’s still so shocking for people when they realize the black man standing in front of them is a physician. At the same time I am aware that we make up a tiny percentage of physicians, and someone could easily go through their entire life without ever meeting a black physician. The beauty of social media is its far reach and ability to expose others to what they may not have been exposed to otherwise. #IAmYourDoctor
Other Doctors share their stories
Doctors from around the country are sharing their own stories, such as AJ Milam, MD, PhD, currently a resident physician in anesthesiology, who shared his own story of being mistaken for a transporter, a nursing assistant, and being straight-up not believed after introducing himself as the doctor. “I’m loving this campaign as a way to highlight the diversity in medicine,” he wrote. “The landscape is changing!!! However, we need to do more as a field to improve diversity so that these encounters no longer occur.”
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Nah, I’M THE DOCTOR! — Thanks to @earlcampbellmd for starting #IAmYourDoctor. This is timely given the lack of diversity that exists within medicine, and STEM careers in general. I’ve had very similar encounters with patients and staff that many others have mentioned. I have included a couple examples below: — Unit Secretary: Who are you here to transport? Me: I'm a doctor. — Family member: Are you the nursing assistant for the day? Me: *with my white coat on* Nope, I'm a doctor. — Patient: When will the doctor be here? Me: I'm the doctor 😑 *after introducing myself as Dr. Milam* — The first time I had an encounter like this I was a bit shocked and upset. Unfortunately encounters similar to this occur so frequently you can become numb to it. — @drkristamarie describes the thoughts that run through your mind perfectly! - I spent a decade+ in school (and I grabbed a PhD too) - My white coat and jacket both have MD, PhD - My badge has MD listed and I introduced myself as Dr. Milam — I’m loving this campaign as a way to highlight the diversity in medicine. The landscape is changing!!! However, we need to do more as a field to improve diversity so that these encounters no longer occur. — Join the #IAmYourDoctor campaign to showcase the diversity in medicine and destroy the stereotypes of what a doctor should look like! — #IAmYourDoctor #changethelandscape #keeppushing #diversity #minority #snma #blackdoctor #doctor #medicine #residency #STEM #blackjoy #blackboyjoy
Unfortunately, the proliferation of negative stereotypes against medical professionals not only hinders the entire medical community, but also serves as real barriers for doctors, nurses, and patients alike. And by sharing their stories with the hashtag, doctors are not only highlighting the inspiring diversity within medicine but also the painful awareness of stereotyping that they are fighting against each and every day.
For instance, Dr. Noor, an Ophthalmologist and a Muslim woman, shared her story of a patient who begrudgingly came to admire her as a doctor, after admitting that he had “never been fond of Muslims.”
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In my experience as a physician thus far I’ve learned quite a lot, and not just about medicine either, but about human nature. Steroetyping is real; it’s what we do about it that matters. Last week I had a patient I was seeing for the second time around. Initially he came in for issues with growths on his eyes that were causing him irritation. We dealt with those, then I also diagnosed him with macular degeneration, and therefore wanted to see him in 6 months. Back during our first appointment, I used to work in 2 different office locations about one hour apart. The office where I had seen this particular patient was the one I no longer see patients at. So when he came in for follow up, he explained that it was over an hour drive for him, and that even though he was offered an appointment with another physician close to home he followed me and wanted me to be his doctor, because, he went on to explain he really liked me adding to it “I really like you, even though you are a Muslim.” He then told me matter of fact that he’d never been fond of Muslims and had only considered them negatively. He even explained he was surprised of himself that he told his wife: “you really should see this woman she is full on Muslim, covers her hair & all, but you know what I still like her and I think you will too. Maybe not all Muslims are bad” Because of how I treated him, because of the kindness that I extended him and professionalism I displayed; Within a 15 minute visit I completely changed his perception about Muslims in general. I also changed his mind about what the face of a doctor really does look like. He ended by asking to take a picture with me so he could show his wife his ‘Muslim doctor.’ It’s an all-too common story that is played day after day for me. People think they know others because of what they see, read or hear, and so categorically, they condemn a religion, race, or ethnicity. Part of being Muslim is what makes me a better person, and this is what I strive to do everyday, with whomever I interact—to show people what a real Muslim looks like, to show them what the changing face of medicine looks like, and to show them love.
“It’s an all-too-common story that is played day after day for me,” Dr. Noor wrote. “People think they know others because of what they see, read or hear, and so categorically, they condemn a religion, race, or ethnicity. Part of being Muslim is what makes me a better person, and this is what I strive to do every day, with whomever I interact—to show people what a real Muslim looks like, to show them what the changing face of medicine looks like, and to show them, love.”
Dr. Jasmine Johnson, a Maternal-Fetal Medicine Fellow who also joined the campaign, tells Nurse.Org that she thought it would be important to share her story because her own experiences have, unfortunately, proven that there is still a lot of bias that exists in medicine. And in joining the campaign and sharing her own story, she was able to see that it’s not limited to doctors alone — many different medical professionals have similar stories in different contexts of facing negative stereotypes, fighting against patient misconceptions about what kind of care they will deliver, or just general ignorance based on appearance.
Dr. Johnson, who actually went to med school interviews only weeks after giving birth to her first child, wrote in her own post that she is fighting to change the conceptions about what a doctor “is” and “looks like,” not only for herself but for her children as well.
“It makes me the most excited to think that a Black, female doctor is the standard for my children and not the exception,” she said in her post. “It is all they have known since birth. They can do and be anything…So let’s all keep motivating those coming up after us and showing the world what is possible!”
As Dr. Johnson also points out, with more diversity in medicine, it’s more important than ever that doctors and nurses continue to work together to understand and respect the unique aspects that each provider brings into patient care. Because not only does understanding how different roles, different faces, and different strengths benefit the medical team and patients as a whole, but it also serves as laying the foundation for the future of healthcare.
“I am fortunate to work with an amazing team of nurses that I also call my friends — I think that that is what makes our working environment so great,” she notes. “I am excited for the future of medicine because there are so many providers from different backgrounds and life experiences working to change how we perceive those who care for us and what they look like.”
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