open letter to black patients

I know it is difficult to trust the health system. I know because I have lived outside of it and within it. You (We) are not wrong to believe that not everyone has the best intentions, that even in their best light some health professionals have untold biases that influence their care for patients and communities. I know because I see it as a black family medicine physician. I see it in the numbers, the statistics of preventable diseases that have been normalized in our community. I see it in the “wish we would have caught this sooner” disease of something that a patient has been reporting for months or years systemically ignored or deferred. I see it in the eyes of patients who chose to come in as a last resort because they didn’t think they could get help. I see it in the disproportionate deaths of black patients that hit families hard but seem trivial in some health environments.

You don’t go into medicine for the money when you have seen its destructive claws eat at your own blood. When you have watched loved ones die because they never got the help they needed. I see my family every day in my patients; my grandparents, my parents, my aunts and uncles, my brother, my niece. Every single day. I know our history in medicine. The home remedies because no doctor would lay eyes on us. I know the segregated hospitals under-resourced and purposely isolated from modern medicine. I know the bad blood stories, the blacks don’t feel real pain stories, the don’t bother treating they don’t care stories.

I know, I’ve heard, I’ve listened.

But it will not be like this forever. There are many black physicians coming through the pipeline. As primary care doctors, specialists, and surgeons. Many who are reaching back to care for their forgotten communities because they can and will be part of the change. Many are in positions of power and influence opening doors for access to the best medicine and technology that black communities never had exposure to because someone asked what about “them”. For years black physicians have endured their own biases in the pursuit of advancing their education and developing their clinical skills. We have fought our own stereotypes and obstacles to be better versions of ourselves as black women, men, and physicians.

We are asking you to trust us. To give us time to help you. To see that new disease as an opportunity to make change. To help us add years to your life. To ask questions when you don’t understand. To allow us to listen and to speak. To believe there are preventable diseases. To try the new medical interventions and options. To let us connect you with resources.

We are asking you to trust us. Because we trust you want better every time we see you. That if you could you would. That circumstances play a huge role. That the family tree is strong. That you are strong.

Black physicians taking care of Black patients can and will change this country. Trust us. Trust me. We are here for you.

Dr Aisha Harris, MD
Born and raised in Flint, Michigan

Carefree black girl. Science geek. Unapologetic poet. Michigan made. Flint raised. Former engineer. Your local family doctor. BLK FAM DOC

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