This Black Doctor Tried To Aid A Sick Man On A Flight – But A Crew Member Banned Her From Helping

Dr. Tamika Cross was on a flight to Houston in October 2016 after attending a friend’s wedding in Detroit. Suddenly, though, a woman a couple of rows ahead of her began screaming for assistance. It seemed that the woman’s husband had become unresponsive. So Cross unclipped her seat-belt and prepared to provide urgent medical aid. But then a flight attendant prevented the doctor her from even getting out of her seat…

These days, Dr. Cross works for The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (U.T. Health) as an assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences. But it’s not necessarily been an easy rise for her. To reach such a position, after all, Cross first faced years of study.

In 2009, for instance, Cross graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in brain behavior and cognitive science after four years of work. And another four busy years after that, she earned her medical qualification from the Meharry Medical College in Tennessee. But her hard graft didn’t end there.

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You see, according to her LinkedIn profile, Cross then completed a year as a resident obstetrician and gynecologist physician at The University of Toledo. A further three years as the same for U.T. Health followed, too. So, suffice it to say that when it comes to doctoring, Cross knows what she is talking about.

Which brings us to the in-flight incident of October 2016. Cross shared the story of this event on her Facebook page on October 9. And according to her post, she was flying on a Delta Air Lines plane traveling to Houston from Detroit after having spent some time at a friend’s wedding. But what happened next was far from routine.

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Of the incident, the assistant professor wrote, “Someone two rows in front of me was screaming for help. Her husband was unresponsive.” Being a well-trained doctor, Cross claimed that she eagerly began to rise from her seat to help the man. Just then, however, a flight attendant apparently told passengers that the man was perfectly okay.

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Cross posted that she kept a close eye on the man nonetheless. And not long afterwards, she claimed, the man once more became unresponsive. She then apparently heard a flight attendant say, “Call overhead for a physician on board.” Upon hearing this,  the doctor wrote, she raised her hand and prepared to help. But the flight attendant allegedly stopped her.

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According to Cross, the flight attendant said, “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.” The assistant professor claimed that she tried to explain that she was actually a doctor but that the flight attendant wouldn’t hear of it.

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Then, Cross wrote, a call went out for a physician, and when she responded again, the flight attendant grilled her on her qualifications. The doctor claimed that the woman then said, “Let me see your credentials. What type of doctor are you? Where do you work? Why were you in Detroit?” All the while, the unresponsive man still apparently needed assistance.

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To top it all off, Cross claimed that then a “white male [approached] the row and [said] he is a physician as well.” The flight attendant was allegedly happy to take this man’s word for it, though, and swiftly allowed him to help the sick passenger. Cross wrote that she remained in her seat, silently raging at the whole scenario.

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Amazingly, though, the assistant professor claimed that even after all this the flight attendant still asked for Cross’ assistance. She wrote, “I continued to help despite the choice words I had saved up for her.” Eventually, then, the man was okay. But the doctor wasn’t done with the flight attendant.

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Cross shared, “[The flight attendant] came and apologized to me several times and [offered] me SkyMiles.” But it was Cross’ turn to refuse. “I don’t want SkyMiles in exchange for blatant discrimination,” she wrote. “Whether this was race, age [or] gender discrimination, it’s not right. She will not get away with this.”

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The first step, of course, was sharing the story on social media. But perhaps even Cross couldn’t have predicted the response that her tale received. You see, an incredible 155,000 people have since reacted to her Facebook post. And news outlets around the world soon picked up the story, too.

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The physician spoke to CNN shortly after the alleged incident. She said, “I’m a double minority. I’m black and a woman, plus I’m young.” She then elaborated to the Houston Chronicle in December 2016, “Regardless of how hard you work, how educated you are and how many degrees you may have, you’re still subject to discrimination no matter where you go.”

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Cross’ story seemed to strike a chord with other professionals in her field as well. The event even inspired its own hashtag in #WhatADoctorLooksLike. Within this thread, many people shared similar cases in which they believed they had been discriminated against due to age, gender or race.

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Yet in spite of this, Cross claimed that she didn’t want the flight attendant to be out of a job. On the contrary, the doctor believed she needed sensitivity training. And fortunately for all involved, Delta Air Lines decided to listen to the online outcry.

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You see, in December 2016, Delta released a statement outlining its position. “The unfortunate encounter [Cross] described did not reflect Delta’s culture and sparked a full investigation by the airline,” it read. It also noted that Delta had changed one of its policies partly because of the response to the story.

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The statement continued, “Delta flight attendants are no longer required to verify medical credentials.” Instead, they can simply take the word of the medical professional offering their assistance. Delta’s senior vice president of in-flight service, Allison Ausband, said, “The feedback Dr. Cross provided gave us a chance to make flying better.”

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The statement also contained a note from Cross herself. She said, “Although this was an unfortunate encounter, I am pleased with the changes that have been made to Delta’s policies and training as a result.” The physician also reiterated her feelings in a follow-up Facebook post.

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In it, Cross expressed further gratitude that her story had “brought about change in a major corporation like Delta Air Lines.” She also wrote, “It is great that this incident was able to produce change and hopefully make other medical professionals, regardless of who they may be, feel comfortable assisting when 30,000 feet in the air.”

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