I am Black. I am a woman. I am a physician.
My education took me from public schools in New Orleans, Louisiana, to the Ivy League halls of Brown University. I returned to post-Katrina New Orleans for my medical education, then went to the Washington, D.C., area for an internal medicine residency and allergy and immunology fellowship training at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
I’ve practiced medicine on both coasts. I was one of only six Black students in my medical school class, one of a mere three Black residents in my residency class and the only Black allergy and immunology fellow in my class. I was the only Black physician in my group at my last hospital appointment. I am very aware of my Blackness, yet the impact of Covid-19’s racial disparities still surprised me. (I am aware of the impact of COVID-19 on all communities of colour, but as a Black woman I have chosen to focus this essay on my personal experience and perspective.)
During a recent Zoom conference call with colleagues, I suddenly realised that, while I have had several family members, family friends and acquaintances who have fallen ill with and died of Covid-19, my colleagues have had none. The single obvious difference between my colleagues and me? I am Black, and New Orleans is my hometown.
In my family, five cousins tested positive for Covid-19. Two recovered quickly. One required ventilator support and recovered. Sadly, two died. Another cousin, a nurse, developed symptoms after caring for Covid-19 patients, but ultimately tested negative (I am convinced it was a false negative result). Each day there is another call, text or post about someone I know who has gotten sick or passed away from Covid-19. The grief and anxiety is profound, especially when compounded by recent news of police violence against and harassment of Black people.
I know I am not alone. A recent poll showed Black Americans are twice as likely to know someone who has tested positive or died from Covid-19. Why?...