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Report: Black doctors routinely face discrimination and retaliation

On Behalf of | Jun 28, 2022 | Employment Law

People who identify as Black alone make up 12.4% of the U.S. population, but only 5% of active physicians in the U.S. identify as Black. That’s a problem because a lack of Black doctors contributes to poorer health outcomes among Black patients. Unfortunately, Black doctors – and Black male doctors specifically – are scarce.

It could be getting worse. In 2020, The Association of American Medical Colleges and the National Medical Association announced an initiative meant to reduce that scarcity. In the 2019-2020 school year, Black men made up only 2.9% of enrolled medical students.

It’s crucial that Black doctors get a good start in their careers and face as little discrimination as possible. But many say that race discrimination continues to be a major problem in the healthcare industry.

The Associated Press recently covered a lawsuit by one Black doctor against an Atlanta-area health system. The 39-year-old claims that he was forced out of his job as a neurosurgeon and that he has basically been blacklisted. He was fired – not for cause – before a mandatory performance “action plan” could be completed. As a result, the health system will not provide him with a letter of good standing, so no one will currently hire him as a neurosurgeon.

He’s not alone, unfortunately. The problem is nationwide, according to advocates interviewed by the AP. “We have scores of doctors that are sending us letters about these same discriminatory practices all the time,” says the head of the National Medical Association, which represents Black physicians.

What did the discrimination look like?

In the Georgia neuroscientist’s case, the alleged discrimination first involved a flood of “letters of inquiry” about his surgeries. These are basically complaints that are investigated by a medical executive committee at a hospital. In eight months, this doctor received 15 letters of inquiry when he’d never received even one before in his career. Fourteen of them were submitted by colleagues.

Independent reviews concluded that none of the 15 letters of inquiry involved patient safety or care standards. They were all about differences of approach or technique.

Meanwhile, the doctor claims that white surgeons at the same hospital made actual mistakes and never received letters of inquiry or were disciplined in any way.

The doctor has filed a complaint with the EEOC and was given permission to sue the health system.

Uneven discipline is often a sign that something is amiss, and it could be discrimination. If you suspect discriminatory behavior at your company, a lawyer can help you determine what to do about it.

Leigh Law Group represents doctors and other types of employees in discrimination cases.