A Houston physician on a Delta flight from Detroit to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport this week quickly switched into “doctor mode” when crew members called for help in assisting a passenger in distress.
Tamika Cross, a certified OB-GYN, raised her hand to help the unresponsive stranger two rows in front of her, but she was cut off by flight staff who questioned her credentials, she said in a Facebook post that has been shared nearly 40,000 times as of Friday afternoon. When she offered to treat the man, a flight attendant told her, “Oh no sweetie put [your] hand down,” Cross recounted in her Oct. 9 post. “We are looking for actual physicians or nurses or some type of medical personnel, we don’t have time to talk to you.”
Cross, who is black, believes it was blatant discrimination by Delta personnel.
In the message, Cross calls on other young working women in corporate America who surely “understand my frustration when I say I’m sick of being disrespected.”
Delta said it has reached out to Cross about the incident and has repeatedly acknowledged the social firestorm, saying, “Please know that we take this issue seriously” and it “does not reflect the Delta culture.” In a message to the media, Delta said it has launched a full investigation into the matter and is interviewing crew members on board at the time.
A spokeswoman said three doctors identified themselves on the flight and only one was able to produce medical certification — so that was the one chosen to render aide. “Flight attendants are trained to collect information from medical volunteers,” Delta spokeswoman Catherine Sirna said. “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.”
In solidarity with Cross, black female physicians all over the world have taken to Twitter, posting photos of themselves in lab coats with messages such as, #whatadoctorlookslike.
According to her post, the episode began midflight Sunday when Cross was returning from a wedding in Detroit. A woman ahead of her on the plane began screaming about her husband who needed medical assistance.
A nearby flight attendant tried to keep passengers calm, saying the man simply had a night terror. But when he became unresponsive again a few minutes later, a page was sent asking for a physician on board.
Cross stepped forward and was immediately shut down.
“I tried to inform her that I was a physician but I was continually cut off by condescending remarks,” Cross said.
The crew asked for any doctors to hit their call buttons, and Cross did, staring at the attendant who rejected her. She was bombarded with questions about her qualifications, unable to tend to the man still in need of medical assistance.
Cross elaborated: “She said “let me see your credentials. What type of doctor are you? Where do you work? Why were you in Detroit?”
I respond “OB-GYN, work in Houston, in Detroit for a wedding, but believe it or not they DO HAVE doctors in Detroit. Now excuse me so I can help the man in need.”
At that point, a middle-age white man came up who also said he was a doctor. Cross said she was dismissed in favor of the man, who the flight attendant said had his credentials on hand. However, they were never provided, Cross added in her post.
The flight attendant did eventually apologize for her comments, only after returning to Cross later for advice on how to treat the passenger’s low blood pressure, she said.
Cross refused the offer of free Delta SkyMiles.
“This is going higher than her,” Cross said, who believes she didn’t fit the “description of a doctor.” “I don’t want SkyMiles in exchange for blatant discrimination. Whether this was race, age, gender discrimination, it’s not right.”
A staff biography page for the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston confirms that she is an OB-GYN at that facility.
Did you witness the incident on Flight DL945? Please call Liz Sawyer at 612-673-4648.