Black female doctor accuses Delta crew member of dismissing her during in-flight medical crisis, saying they’re ‘looking for actual physicians’

Delta Airlines plane during flight. HANDOUT
Delta Airlines plane during flight. HANDOUT

A black woman has accused Delta flight attendants of refusing to believe she was a doctor during a medical emergency on a flight from Detroit to Houston, and her Facebook post about the incident is sparking outrage.

Dr. Tamika Cross, an obstetrician and gynecologist in Houston, was flying home after attending a wedding when a man on her flight became unresponsive, according to her Sunday post. Cross, a fourth-year resident at McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center, said she immediately went into “doctor mode” and stood up to help, but was stopped 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 in the post. “I tried to inform her that I was a physician but I was continually cut off by condescending remarks.

“Then overhead they paged, ‘Any physician on board, please press your button.’ I stare at her as I go to press my button. She said, ‘Oh wow, you're an actual physician?’ I reply yes. She said, ‘Let me see your credentials. What type of doctor are you? Where do you work? Why were you in Detroit?’"

Meanwhile, Cross wrote, the sick passenger was not being helped. She said she explained to the woman why she had been in Detroit, telling her, “believe it or not, they do have doctors in Detroit.”

Cross wrote that she was ready to help the man when a “seasoned” white, male doctor showed up. The flight attendant dismissed her in favor of the man, despite the fact that the man did not show any credentials.

“Mind you, he hasn't shown anything to her. Just showed up and fit the ‘description of a doctor,’” Cross wrote. “I stay seated. Mind blown. Blood boiling.”

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She wrote that the flight attendant, who she called a “heifer,” showed up at her seat about 10 minutes later to ask for input on what to do next to help the man, who was responsive again but still ill. She said she continued to help the man, because “the patient and his wife weren’t the problem. They needed help and we were mid-flight.”

I'm sure many of my fellow young, corporate America working women of color can all understand my frustration when I say...

Posted by Tamika Cross on Sunday, October 9, 2016

The flight attendant later apologized several times and offered Cross Delta sky miles. She refused.

“This is going higher than her,” she wrote. “I don’t want sky miles in exchange for blatant discrimination. Whether this was race, age, gender discrimination, it’s not right.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Delta is investigating the incident.

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

Delta also responded to complaints on Facebook about Cross' alleged treatment, stating that it "does not reflect the Delta culture."

A statement from Delta, posted on its website, gave more detail on procedures flight attendants follow when there is a need for a medical professional on a flight it says in part:

Three medical professionals identified themselves on the flight in question. Only one was able to produce documentation of medical training and that is the doctor who was asked to assist the customer onboard. In addition, paramedics met the flight to assist the customer further.

Flight attendants are trained to collect information from medical volunteers offering to assist with an onboard medical 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.

Delta's commitment to diversity, inclusion and respect of all of our customers worldwide is rooted deeply in our company's values and culture. As a global carrier with a diverse workforce, serving a diverse customer base, we are committed to treating all passengers with kindness and respect.

As of Friday morning, Cross’ post had been shared more than 37,000 times and received over 13,000 responses. Most were in support of Cross, though some thought her calling the flight attendant a “heifer” was uncalled for.

Even former Delta flight attendants chimed in.

“As a former Delta flight attendant and supervisor, I was shocked and surprised by this flight attendant's action,” wrote James Wilcox Jr. “I truly believes this was her ignorance and bias. Delta does not promote this type of behavior. Hopefully, they deal with this unprofessional flight attendant and stress the importance of not stereotyping people. Dr. Cross, I am so sorry that this happened to you. I really am.”

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