A doctor says she was racially profiled aboard a Delta Air Lines flight this week when two flight attendants doubted her ability to aid a sick passenger.
Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, a physician in obesity medicine, said she was on a flight from Indianapolis to Boston on Tuesday when the passenger beside her became panicked.
“Lots of shaking, hyperventilation,” Stanford told Boston 25 News.
Without hesitation, she began trying to calm the passenger but was interrupted by a flight attendant who walked over to check the situation. Stanford, who works at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, said the attendant asked for her medical license, which she showed to confirm she was indeed a doctor.
That didn’t seem to be enough, however, as a second attendant came over moments later and asked to see her credentials again.
“[She said] ‘I just talked with the first flight attendant and she said you’re not really a doctor … you’re just a head doctor,'” Stanford recalled. “And I said, ‘Excuse me? What do you mean by that?’ [To which she replied] ‘Oh, so you’re not really an MD are you?'”
Ironically, Stanford had just attended a conference on medical bias two weeks prior where she spoke with another doctor, OB-GYN Tamika Cross, who suffered similar experience with Delta and was blocked from providing care to a white passenger who fell ill, Boston 25 reported. Backlash over the 2016 incident prompted the airline to change its policy, nixing the requirement for attendants to verify the credentials of medical professionals offering assistance.
Stanford called the ordeal “bewildering” and took to Twitter to voice her concerns.
“I am very disappointed that your policies on #Diversity have not lead to any change,” she wrote, tagging Delta directly. “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.”
In a follow up tweet, the doctor noted that fact that her accomplishments and credentials “do not shield racism.”
Delta tweeted back at Stanford, apologizing for her “frustration” over the incident.
“Please know that Delta does not condone discrimination for any reason and we take your comments very seriously,” the airline wrote. “We’re looking into further and will be reaching out to you directly.”
Stanford told CNN an executive assistant from the company contacted her and confirmed an investigation was underway.
In statement, a Delta spokesperson Anthony Black explained that, according to the flight crew’s account, “they initially misread the credentials offered by the doctor and went to reconfirm her specific medical discipline.”
“We are following up with the crew to ensure proper policy is followed,” Black added. “Dr. Stanford’s care for the passenger remained uninterrupted throughout the duration of the medical issue. We thank [her] for her medical assistance and are sorry for any misunderstanding that may have occurred.”
Stanford said she’s less than satisfied with the airline’s response, however.
“So I spoke with @Delta and I left the conversation quite uncertain that any changes will be made,” she tweeted. “Summary: flight attendants thought I was a therapist despite #MDlicense. They will make sure this is addressed. Thanks for being a #skymiles member. Really?!$ ”
Watch more in the clip below.