My life is very interesting. I live in Monterey County, a place where I can get up, work all day and not see another person who looks like me (until I get home). In other words, there are black folks here, but few and far between. I like it here and am glad to call it home. But, ever so often, I am reminded that they need me here and that my platform needs to be bigger. This following incident happened a few weeks ago. I share, not to “throw shade” at anyone, but add to the continuing discussion on the persistence of health inequities.

I recently attended a community meeting where I was the only (obviously) black person. I was approached by an older gentlemen, who I later learned was a physician. He was new to Monterey, but had been practicing for a while. His first conversation for me was “very interesting.” That’s what I say when I don’t quite know how to take someone. He proceeded to tell me about “a well-intentioned white woman” who told him that the way to get black people to comply with medical advice was to “get in their face.” He continued on to say that he agreed with this perspective. I know he said some additional words, but I can’t quite recall them because I was too busy trying to figure out what I would say.

Well…I managed a smile and off my lips rolled, “Well, you know you can’t do that all black people.”

The pivot happened so quickly, I didn’t really see it coming. “You’re right. Maybe I shouldn’t stereotype people,” he said.

Whew! Crisis averted. What I liked about this interaction is that it tested my ability not to over react and it tested the docs ability to learn and grow.

While the other physician may have been sharing some critical information about working with a subset of a population, health care providers cannot make these types of assumptions. I recently read an article about how Black patients perceive their experiences with their providers. Overall, it’s not favorable. If we are going to make progress in promoting health equity, we must look at all aspects of the health care system, including provider interactions. We have to get to the point where we are treat people with respect and value their voice in their care.

Listen to your patients and provide the level and quality of care they deserve.