Vital Times 2020 - 80

This experience (and countless similar experiences,
e.g., having a police officer draw his weapon for an
unwarranted traffic stop) is not unique to me; African
Americans are more likely to experience traffic stops,
to be ticketed, and to be frisked after a traffic stop.
More concerning is the disproportionate extrajudicial
killing of African Americans; in fact, African American
males are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by
police compared to their white counterparts. This
phenomenon is not new, and little has been done to
address this crisis which is a leading cause of death
among young African Americans.

and my badge which listed my name followed by MD,
PhD; despite me introducing myself as Dr. Milam, I
was always a transporter, dietary aide, or a nursing
assistant. The thought that I could be a physician
seemed to be unbelievable. While this can be
frustrating, I can understand why one would make the
assumption that I'm not a physician. African American
males make up less than 3 percent of the physician
workforce, and the number of males graduating
from medical school is the lowest in 3 decades. This
resonates with me, as I was 1 of 5 African American
males in my medical school class of over 300, and
1 of 4 African American male residents among 450
residents at my hospital.
While I may not be invisible, I can empathize with
Dr. Fayanju; I often feel invisible and undervalued.
People see me, but they refuse to see me. To see me
for who I am, and all the work that I have done to
get to here. The unconscious biases that create the
assumptions in people that I cannot be a physician,
are the same unconscious biases that discourage
African Americans from applying to medical school
and gaining acceptance into medical school.
We need a paradigm change to improve diversity in
medicine so that an African American physician is not
seen as an anomaly.

Similarly, I'm not invisible at the hospital, but I'm
never seen as a physician although I have both a
doctorate and medical degree. Hospital employees
are quick to ask me if I'm lost or who I was there to
pick up; this happened frequently during my intern
year of residency. Despite my white coat (or jacket)

80 |

CSA Vital Times

" I am invisible, understand, simply
because people refuse to see me.
Like the bodiless heads you see
sometimes in circus sideshows, it is
as though I have been surrounded
by mirrors of hard, distorting glass.
When they approach me they see
only my surroundings, themselves, or
figments of their imagination - indeed,
everything and anything except me. "
- Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man



Vital Times 2020

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