Black doctor from Duke tells of bias during career

Black doctor from Duke tells of bias during career
September 03
00:00 2015

Dr. Damon Tweedy set to speak during Bookmarks Festival of Books

By Tevin Stinson, The Chronicle

For the past 10 years, Winston-Salem has welcomed authors and storytellers from across the globe for the annual Bookmarks Festival of Books and Authors.

This year’s festival will begin with an opening ceremony at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts on Saturday, Sept. 12.

During the ceremony, authors and storytellers will be speaking and answering questions about their books and upcoming projects.

Dr. Damon Tweedy, a psychiatrist at Duke University Medical Center, is one of the authors who will be speaking on the opening day of the festival.

Tweedy will discuss his debut memoir “Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine.” Publishers Weekly has Tweedy’s memoirs listed as Number One on its Top 10 list of memoirs and biographies of 2015.

The book chronicles how the doctor, a graduate of Duke University Medical School,  dealt with racial discrimination, bias and stereotypes firsthand during his time at Duke.

The opening chapter of the book details Tweedy’s thoughts and feelings when a professor at Duke asked him to change a light bulb after mistaking him as a handy man.

“It was obvious that he didn’t think I belonged there,” Tweedy said. “I made it my mission to prove him, and everyone else who didn’t think I belonged there, wrong.”

Although the book features a number of personal experiences, Tweedy said the main purpose of his book is to educate African-Americans on ways to live healthier lives.

The book also explores the unique health problems many black Americans face because of system-based disparities, the doctor-patient relationship and unhealthy lifestyles.

“That’s one of the main goals of the book, to encourage African-Americans to take better care of themselves,” Tweedy said.

Tweedy said he became interested in the health disparities in African-Americans during his first year of medical school.

“That first year, we kept learning about all these different diseases, and basically the message was that being black was bad for your health, but they weren’t really telling us why or what we could do about it,” Tweedy said.

After the death of his grandmother and being diagnosed with high blood pressure during his first semester of medical school, Tweedy decided he wanted to put all his

findings together to try to make sense of what was going on.

For years, African-Americans have questioned the health services provided by doctors and health care professionals. Tweedy realizes that the medical system has not always been kind to African-Americans and believes a lot of those feelings come from the times when hospitals were segregated.

“The health system hasn’t always been so great,” said Tweedy. “Not too long ago, they were segregating wards, and experimenting on blacks without permission. I think a lot of those feelings are still lingering in the minds of a lot of African-Americans.”

Over the years, the relationship between health service providers and African- Americans have improved, but is still a work in progress, according to Tweedy.

“There has been some progress over the years, but it seems to be uneven. It’s kind of like one step forward, two steps back,” said Tweedy. “It’s going in the right direction, but there are still some situations that are less than ideal.”

Bookmarks authors have won hundreds of awards, including more than 100 honorary degrees, multiple Emmy Awards, 10 James Beard Awards and several NAACP Image Awards.

The 2015 Bookmarks Festival of Books and Authors will begin Thursday, Sept. 10.  For a list of authors and storytellers attending this year’s festival visit

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