Monday, September 19, 2011

Follow Up: Confronting the Med Student

After the incident with the med student who asked me if my daughter was adopted, I did some reflecting. Several people responded  that I should say something to the doctor about the med student's comment, and I reluctantly took their advice.

I wrote my doctor an email this morning explaining what happened and telling her that I didn't think he did it maliciously, but that the comment suggested he needed some lessons in how to navigate a multicultural and racially diverse landscape.

She responded quickly and apologetically, thanking me for contacting her and ensuring she would talk to the student.

Then, at the end of the workday, I got a call from her office. I knew it was the student calling to apologize after being reprimanded. I almost didn't answer it--not because I was too mad to talk or anything (the heat of the moment has pretty much died), but because the conversation was bound to be awkward and I didn't want to do it.

But I answered.

He talked quickly, but--what seemed to be--sincerely. He apologized for the comment, "I said a stupid thing without thinking, and I'm really sorry." When I told him that I never thought he meant it hurtfully, he seemed to sigh in relief and sounded much less scripted. Then he told me that the doctor had told him I likely had to face comments from people in my day-to-day life and that he hadn't really thought about how my family's situation might impact me. I told him that it could be frustrating and that it would help a lot if people like him, people training to be professionals, were more attuned to the realities of racial complexity. Then he told me he was sorry again, but glad that it had happened because he felt that he'd really learned something from it.

Sure. That could have all been lip service, and the doctor could have been sitting next to him and listening to make sure he followed through on the consequences of his reprimand, but I don't think so. He seemed sincere, and I feel a lot better about the situation.

Thank you to those who encouraged me to say something. You were right. After all, if you're not part of the solution .  . .


  1. For what it is worth, that conversation sounds like it *was* sincere and that he really did learn something from the exchange. Good for you for not only standing up for your family (and others like you) but also for being able to do it in a way that that student will remember and that he learned something from. Awesome.

  2. Good for you! Those conversations can be awkward, but it sounds like you really made a change for that guy.