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One doctor's passionate and profound memoir of his experience grappling with race, bias, and the unique health problems of black Americans
When Damon Tweedy begins medical school,he envisions a bright future where his segregated, working-class background will become largely irrelevant. Instead, he finds that he has joined a new world where race is front and center. The recipient of a scholarship designed to increase black student enrollment, Tweedy soon meets a professor who bluntly questions whether he belongs in medical school, a moment that crystallizes the challenges he will face throughout his career. Making matters worse, in lecture after lecture the common refrain for numerous diseases resounds, "More common in blacks than in whites."
Black Man in a White Coat examines the complex ways in which both black doctors and patients must navigate the difficult and often contradictory terrain of race and medicine. As Tweedy transforms from student to practicing physician, he discovers how often race influences his encounters with patients. Through their stories, he illustrates the complex social, cultural, and economic factors at the root of many health problems in the black community. These issues take on greater meaning when Tweedy is himself diagnosed with a chronic disease far more common among black people. In this powerful, moving, and deeply empathic book, Tweedy explores the challenges confronting black doctors, and the disproportionate health burdens faced by black patients, ultimately seeking a way forward to better treatment and more compassionate care.
In this eye-opening memoir, Tweedy, a black psychiatrist who interned at Duke University Medical School in the mid-1990s, vigorously confronts his profession and its erratic treatment of African-American patients. Tweedy, raised in a segregated working-class neighborhood, gets a full scholarship to the white academic world of Duke, where he's challenged on every level, including by a professor who wrongly assumes he's a janitor. Though Duke, like many elite colleges, tried to recruit minority students, Tweedy notes that the constant subliminal and overt racism at the school which former professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. termed "the Plantation" caused many non-white recruits to suffer self-doubt and anxiety. His painful anecdotes, both as an intern and physician, show the critical health crisis within the black community; his patients included a drug-addicted girl pregnant with a dead infant, an older woman suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes, a man struggling with mental illness, and a young woman who contracted AIDS from her boyfriend. Tweedy nicely unravels the essential issues of race, prejudice, class, mortality, treatment, and American medicine without blinking or polite excuses.
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Black man in a white coat
If you are in medical field or consider to be a health care professional, this is a must read book.