Delta Airlines is finding itself in hot water yet again over racial profiling. Back in 2016, Dr. Tamika Cross was on a Delta flight when another passenger became unresponsive. Flight staff refused to allow her to help that passenger because they did not believe that she was a doctor. To address the issue, Delta worked with Dr. Cross to update their policies so similar incidents would not happen again. Clearly that update did not work.
Another doctor, also a woman of color, shared that the attendants on her flight continued to call for a physician — even though she was already helping the passenger in trouble. She had already stabilized the passenger by the time another doctor showed up. The airline didn't question his credentials or ignore him. They even credited him with helping the already stabilized passenger.
And now we have Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford. Dr. Cody Stanford was on a flight to Boston when the passenger next to her began shaking and hyperventilating. The doctor jumped into action to help immediately. While she was helping the hyperventilating passenger, a flight attendant came and asked her if she was a doctor.
Dr. Cody Stanford replied yes and continued helping the passenger.
That first attendant left and another showed up shortly thereafter. This attendant wanted Dr. Cody Stanford to prove that she was a doctor by showing her medical license. That's not something doctors are required to do according to Delta's policy, and carrying a medical license around isn't something that is mandated, but Dr. Cody Stanford just happened to have hers on her so she showed it. The second attendant left and the doctor was able to get back to helping the passenger.
At least she tried to get back to helping the passenger. As she was working with the hyperventilating woman, both attendants came back and questioned the doctor about whether the medical license she presented was actually hers. Essentially, Dr. Cody Stanford says, they accused her of carrying and presenting someone else's medical license so she could pretend to be a doctor. Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford has four degrees, has won countless awards, and is both an educator and policymaker at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard. She has so many letters after her name that we could play some seriously awesome scrabble. Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA, FAAP, FACP, FTOS — it's a lot. She's not just a doctor, she's the kind of doctor that helps teach other doctors how to be doctors. Yet Delta's attendants didn't believe she was a physician even after she presented her documentation.
After some back and forth, she was finally allowed to focus on tending to the sick woman next to her, but the incident certainly left an impression, so she took to Twitter.
@Delta my experience last night when a fellow passenger needed help shows that being a @harvardmed @MassGeneralMDs… https://t.co/UfxWid6vwn— Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA, FAAP, FACP (@Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA, FAAP, FACP)1540998720.0
Delta tweeted back to say they were looking into it, and then had an executive assistant call her to tell her that the airline would follow up with her at some point. Eventually they got back to her and explained that there was no problem, the attendant had just "initially misread" the credentials and thought maybe the doctor was a therapist, so they wanted to confirm what the doctor's specialty was. Remember that, as a matter of Delta policy, Dr. Cody Stanford didn't have to show her license in the first place. She did because she happened to have it. Delta said they would "follow up with the crew to ensure policy is followed."
None of that sat well with the doctor.
So I spoke with @Delta and I left the conversation quite uncertain that any changes will be made. Summary: flight a… https://t.co/mmBztixgNw— Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA, FAAP, FACP (@Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA, FAAP, FACP)1541020061.0
People aren't surprised. History repeats itself and WOW Delta has a history.
@fstanfordmd @Delta @harvardmed @MassGeneralMDs I am a white physician & have helped several patients on flights. N… https://t.co/agF0EMWluo— Christina Rama (@Christina Rama)1541072602.0
@fstanfordmd @DeltaAirlineUS @DrSinhaEsq @DrKathyHughes Happen to me on same airline 3 years ago. The flight attend… https://t.co/c9KQ1nFIYw— Reshma Gupta, MD, MSHPM (@Reshma Gupta, MD, MSHPM)1540955805.0
@irb123 @fstanfordmd @darakass @Delta They haven't let me help before ... just went to the older male medical professional farther away ...— Caitlyn Mooney (@Caitlyn Mooney)1541130310.0
@fstanfordmd @Delta @harvardmed @MassGeneralMDs It happened to me too, in 2009, I am Latino , MD a pediatrician. Si… https://t.co/AOn28BInzb— N.Umlauf-Barrera (@N.Umlauf-Barrera)1541114852.0
Even Dr. Tamika Cross, who we mentioned earlier, spoke about the incident. She worked personally with Delta to change their policies a few years ago, so why was this still happening?
Delta has yet to respond.