A black ER doctor reflects on everyday encounters with racism

Khama Ennis, MPH ’02, is chief of emergency medicine at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Massachusetts. As a black doctor, she sees racism every day.

Ennis wrote about the bias she encounters from patients in a June 11, 2020 Perspective article in the Washington Post.

When Ennis enters a patient’s room, she always announces herself as a doctor. But, she wrote, “Unless I’ve seen the patient before, there’s always a moment where things shift. The first thing they saw when I walked in the room was a black woman with natural hair. I wait a moment while they reconcile the cognitive dissonance of who they see in front of them with what they just heard so we can get to the reason they came.” Often patients question her about where she’s from, where she went to school, and whether she’s a U.S. citizen.

“Medicine is challenging enough, especially now with covid-19, without having to expend so much mental energy wondering when I’m going to be blindsided by bias,” she wrote. Yet a recent large gathering at the hospital to protest the murder of George Floyd gave her a glimmer of hope for change. After she treated a white male patient, the two of them cried together. “That was an incredible moment for both of us, and I hope the first step of many to come,” she wrote.

Read the Washington Post perspective: As a black ER doctor, I see racism every day. It doesn’t have to be that way.