An arresting memoir that personalizes the enduring racial divide in contemporary American medicine.
When North Carolina physician and psychiatry professor Tweedy first entered Duke University Medical School as one of only six black students on a full-tuition scholarship, he was already well-aware of the vast health disparities between black and white populations, where lack of insurance and “poverty topped the list of culprits.” Throughout grueling years of intensive schooling and patient care, the doctor repeatedly pondered his role as a black physician in a predominantly white medical community. Tweedy devotes equal time to his academic term in medical school, to a yearlong clinical apprenticeship where he swiftly became “consumed by the broader health problems of my race,” and to his former psychiatry practice. Early on in his career at Duke, his resolve was tested when a professor mistook him for a janitor, yet he remained committed. Tweedy’s tenure throughout his hospital internship forms the memoir’s riveting centerpiece. Structured around fast-paced, eye-opening medical cases encountered on clinical rotations, many episodes are tainted with the stigma of social, racial, and economically charged misconceptions and biases. The author includes anecdotes featuring prejudiced patients and discriminatory doctors as well as one about a longtime-married Christian man’s shocking HIV seroconversion. Tweedy also shares his own battles with inherited kidney disorders and hypertension along with lucid thoughts on a physician’s obligation to community health and the liberating power of tolerance. Clearly at odds with the racial and class-stratified machinations of the medical industry, the author writes with dignified authority on the imbalances in opportunities and available social and medical service platforms to the many African-American patients seeking clinical care and of his pivotal role in making a difference.
In this unsparingly honest chronicle, Tweedy cohesively illuminates the experiences of black doctors and black patients and reiterates the need for improved understanding of racial differences within global medical communities.