Black Women Seek Out Black Doctors to Avoid Racist Health Care

Dr. Michelle Wilson just graduated from the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University. She will continue her training with a residency in family medicine at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany, Ga. (Verónica Zaragovia/WLRN)

In South Florida, when people want to find a doctor who’s Black, they often end up contacting Adrienne Hibbert through her online website, Black Doctors of South Florida.

“There are a lot of Black networks that are behind the scenes,” says Hibbert, who runs her own marketing firm. “I don’t want them to be behind the scenes, so I’m bringing it to the forefront.”

Hibbert says she got the idea for the website after she gave birth to her son 15 years ago. Her obstetrician at the time was white, and the suburban hospital outside Miami didn’t feel welcoming to her as a Black woman pregnant with her first child.

“They had no singular photos of a Black woman and her Black child,” Hibbert says. “I want someone who understands my background. I want someone who understands the foods that I eat. I want someone who understands my upbringing and things that my grandma used to tell me.”

In addition to shared culture and values, a Black physician can offer Black patients a sense of safety, validation and trust. Research has shown that racism, discrimination and unconscious bias continue to plague the U.S. health care system and can cause unequal treatment for racial and ethnic minorities.

Black patients have had their complaints and symptoms dismissed, their pain undertreated, and are referred less frequently for specialty care. Older Black Americans can still remember when some areas of the country had segregated hospitals and clinics, not to mention profoundly unethical medical failures and abuses, such as the 40-year-long Tuskegee syphilis study.