One doctor's passionate and profound memoir of his experience grappling with racial identity, bias, and the unique health problems of black Americans.
When Damon Tweedy first enters the halls of Duke University Medical School on a full scholarship, 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. When one of his first professors mistakes him for a maintenance worker, it is a moment that crystallizes the challenges he will face throughout his early career. Making matters worse, in lecture after lecture the common refrain for numerous diseases resounds: "more common in blacks than whites."
In riveting, honest prose, 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 most health problems in the black community. These elements take on greater meaning when Tweedy finds himself diagnosed with a chronic disease far more common among black people. In this powerful, moving, and compassionate book, Tweedy deftly 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.
©2015 Damon Tweedy (P)2015 Recorded Books
Thank you Dr. Tweedy for sharing your story. You gave voice to the conflicted experience that I, as an African American women with a PhD. grapple with daily!
I am an avid eclectic reader.
Tweedy tells the story of his life in medical school, residency and in medical practice as a black man. He attended Duke University Medical School in 1996. He tells the story of his humiliation of being mistaken for a maintenance worker by his professor. He says he felt uncomfortable and like an outsider all during his schooling at Duke. He also discusses the affirmative action and how helpful it has been to the minority.
The author also delves into his health problems. He goes into depth about his diagnosis of hypertensive kidney disease which is very common among the blacks. He moves back and forth between anecdote and analysis. He reviews the health problems of blacks and how this relates to poverty and ignorance. He discusses the past history of medical experimentation on blacks without their knowledge or consent. He also delves into the “two-tiered system” where blacks are less likely than whites to have access to quality health care. Unfortunately, Tweedy offers few opinions or ideas on how to eliminate racial disparities in health care. He does advocate for more black physicians and nurses. The memoir is well written and quite interesting. Corey Allen did a good job narrating the book.
Insightful reflections on medical training and practice and how race can influence doctors and patients.
Damon Tweedy has written an extremely thoughtful memoir of his time as a medical student onward, navigating a white dominated school and profession. It begins with his experience, walking into Duke Medical School and being asked by the professor, "Are you here to fix the lights?" Stunned into silence and not knowing how to explain that he was not a well dressed janitor but was in fact a medical student, Tweedy tried to shake it off and prove his worth. When Tweedy earned the second highest score on the final exam in his professor's class, his professor (the same one who mistook him for the janitor) told him how surprised and impressed he was that Tweedy did so well. The professor never even realized how racist it was to be that surprised a black person could do so well. The professor could have added, "And you are so well spoken!"
Tweedy himself felt confused about his own ideas of black and white people, rich and poor people. Using a deeply self reflective writing style, Tweedy offers his reader a genuine understanding of the conflicted ideas that work their way into the minds of the doctors who care for us. They are, after all, human. Tweedy wrote about his need to differentiate himself from the black people who got ahead because of affirmative action instead of skill-- wanting the white people in charge of his future to see his talents and not his skin color. However, he realized he wasn't so different from many of his patients. He spent an incredible amount of effort trying to understand their lives, their struggles, and what led them to make the choices they made.
In the end, his drive to understand humans won out, motivating him to choose psychiatry over surgery. Whenever a patient's outcome was unfavorable, Tweedy beat himself up, looking through his notes to see how his own biases might have dictated the care he provided. This made me really love him-- so much.
During his time as a doctor, he treated many poor black people and saw how their outcomes were often far worse than outcomes for whites with the same conditions. He spent his career trying to understand why that is and has written a book to share what he learned. In the book he addresses specific medical and psychological issues and healthcare cost and accessibility. He examines many stereotypes that have gain popularity and asks if they are generally true, and somehow he does all of it without sounding angry, self righteous, or elitist.
I got this Audiobook to learn more about the Black professional experience in Medicine. There is that, surely, but the message of this book is very important. It is the book I have always wanted to write about how poverty causes medical illness. The problems that people have with access to care, getting good food, and a general environment that makes a healthy lifestyle difficult if not impossible.
I have definitely seen the same factors affect white people. Culture affects so much. For some reason, many black women will often complain that their appetite is down when they weigh 200 pounds. They are sincerely worried and it is sometimes a huge surprise to find out that it is healthier to be lean (although not a panacea, as the author learned). As he also learned, his diet affects blood pressure. How much is this a factor in the increased problems with hypertension in the Black population. What would happen if we could magically get good food to everyone?
Yes, some is cultural. There are dietary factors that affect Black people, but, given motivation and education, a fair number of people, in my experience, are very motivated to change eating habits. The challenge is the same as for anyone, we all learn habits very early. Many of these same factors affect poor people and those who are isolated, such as in rural areas.
No matter what the causes, the stories in this book are real and every health professional has seen this. The author goes beyond the medical to learn about his patients and why they are having problems taking meds and staying on diets and participating in care. The more he learns, the more he understands, and you will, too, if you read/listen to this book.
This author provided a valuable point of view towards doctors and race. He left me with many things to ponder as a patient of color and I trust the those in the medical field will be left with insight as well.
I decided to get this book because it was something different than my usual choices. I thought it would be interesting to learn about the health problems of black people. I learned so much more though. I had no idea what difficulties a black doctor faced. It was an even-handed reflection on prejudice. I was surprised at the degree of health problems he encountered. I still can't see the logic of 30 hour shifts. It was an eye-opening book. Well done.
I hemmed and hawed over whether I should buy this book, but it was on sale and the great reviews made my decision for me. Being neither black nor a doctor, I thought it might not interest me as much as its fans. I was wrong. It was fascinating.
Dr. Tweedy’s early struggle to prove his value because he knew others would be judging him was engaging. When he succeeded and entered the world of professional medicine, it was shocking to learn what he discovered about how blacks often fare in the U.S. medical system. That blew my mind.
I hope doctors and others healthcare providers in the U.S., and elsewhere take the time to read this fine book.
Love to walk and listen. Commute and listen. I typically enjoy well developed characters mixed with a good mystery.
Because this isn't my normal subject matter, I can't in all fairness rank it. I can say that it did a great job at inspiring a conversation on a multi layered subject matter.
I thought he did an excellent job at sharing his truth using different stories. Each story represented his journey into his own pre-conceived notions. We all have them, you can't live in America and not. For me nothing was really surprising, but reinforces the painful truth that if you are born African American you will always need to be mindful that people will perceive you first based on the color of your skin and second on who you are as in individual. Things are better, but the damage has been done. It will never be an equal playing field, but instead an eternal work in progress.
Overall, I think he did a great job sharing his life experience. He didn't spend too much time on any particular topic. He let the theme of book guide the reader. He was impartial and very forthcoming. Good job!
As an RN for 40 years I had great interest in this book. I really enjoyed hearing the story of triumph against odds, which I am always ready to hear. The authors retelling of his experiences as a black man in a white coat did not seem to me to speak of anything other than the reality I have seen in the hospital. Both inspiring in the positive experiences and sad in the times of being treated as different due to skin color, in the end good triumphs over evil. A very good read
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