DETROIT » At first, all Dr. Tamika Cross wanted to do was get home to Houston after a wedding in Detroit.
But while on a Delta Air Lines flight Sunday, Cross also wanted to act on the ideals of her profession — and assist a man a few seats ahead of her who was having a health crisis. Yet — as she relates on her Facebook page — Cross, who is African-American, got an unexpected rebuff from a flight attendant who doubted she was a physician.
The in-flight encounter, according to Cross, began when the sick man, after some initial yells for help, became unresponsive, prompting a flight attendant to shout, “Call overhead for a physician onboard.” As Dr. Cross recounts on her Facebook posting:
“I raised my hand to grab her attention. She said to me, ‘Oh no, sweetie. Put your hand down. We are looking for actual physicians or nurses or some type of medical personnel. We don’t have time to talk to you.’
“I tried to inform her that I was a physician but I was continually cut off by condescending remarks. Then, overhead they paged ‘any physician onboard, please press your button.’ I stare at her as I go to press my button. She said, “Oh, wow, you’re an actual physician?’ I reply yes. She said, ‘Let me see your credentials. What type of doctor are you? Where do you work? Why were you in Detroit?’
“(Please remember, this man is still in need of help and she is blocking my row from even standing up while bombarding me with questions.)
“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.”
By that time, however, a white man approached the area and announces that he is a doctor, according to Cross’ posting.
“She says to me, ‘Thanks for your help but he can help us, and he has his credentials.’ Mind you, he hasn’t shown anything to her. Just showed up and fit the ‘description of a doctor.’ I stay seated.” According to her posting the attendant later apologized and offered her sky miles.
Cross is a fourth-year resident in the obstetrics-gynecology department of the University of Texas Health System in Houston, according to the school’s website — meaning she is licensed to practice medicine although not fully certified in her specialty. She did not respond Wednesday to email inquiries apparently because she was too busy, according to the health system’s media relations manager Deborah Lake.
“Dr. Cross has been in surgery or on the floor of the hospital all day,” Lake said.
Delta spokeswoman Liz Savadelis, reached at the airline’s headquarters in Atlanta, said the company was aware of the complaint by Dr. Cross and released the following statement: “Discrimination of any kind is never acceptable. We’ve been in contact with Dr. Cross and one of our senior leaders is reaching out to assure her that we’re completing a full investigation.”