Harvard Doctor Says She Was Racially Profiled by Delta Crew

Nov 1, 2018

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A doctor who provided a fellow passenger with medical assistance on a Delta flight says she was racially profiled by the flight crew in the process.

Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, who is an expert in obesity medicine at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, says that on her Delta flight to Boston she attempted to assist the flyer next to her who began hyperventilating and shaking.

Stanford told CNN she was helping the passenger when a flight attendant came over and asked if she was a doctor. She said yes and continued treating the passenger. Then, according to Stanford, a second flight attendant came over and asked to see her medical license. After she provided it, both flight attendants later came back and questioned whether the credentials actually belonged to Stanford.

“I am very disappointed that your policies on #Diversity have not led to any change. As a #blackwoman #doctor who showed my #medical license to help a passenger on DL5935 your #flightattendant still did not believe I was a #Physician,” Stanford tweeted after the incident.

Delta tweeted an apology in response.

“I am so sorry for your frustration Dr. Stanford. Please know that Delta does not condone discrimination for any reason and we take your comments very seriously. We are looking into [the matter] further and will be reaching out to you directly,” the airline wrote. Delta reportedly followed up with a call saying it was looking into the incident and would follow up again.

Stanford doesn’t think Delta’s response is enough.


A Delta spokesperson told CNN that the flight attendants “initially misread the credentials offered by the doctor and went to reconfirm her specific medical discipline.” The spokesperson went on to say that, “We are following up with the crew to ensure proper policy is followed. Dr. Stanford’s care for the passenger remained uninterrupted throughout the duration of the medical issue.”

This is not the first time a female doctor of color felt profiled by Delta’s flight crew. In a 2016 high-profile incident, Dr. Tamika Cross posted about a similar incident. When a male passenger was unresponsive on Cross’s flight, the crew asked if there were doctors on board. She volunteered but the flight attendants did not accept her help.

“I raised my hand to grab (the flight attendant’s) attention,” Cross wrote on social media of the incident back in 2016. “She said to me ‘oh no sweetie put ur hand down.'” Cross wrote that the flight attendant said they wanted “actual” physicians or nurses. The flight crew then eventually accepted a white male doctor’s offer to help.

In the wake of that egregious incident, Delta — in consultation with Cross — changed its policy to say that flight attendants would no longer be required to review the credentials of physicians offering inflight medical assistance.

Other women of color who are physicians replied to Stanford’s thread that they also had experienced similar incidents on Delta.


TPG reached out to Delta for more information but the request for comment was not returned by time of publication.

Featured image via Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford’s Twitter profile.

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