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Black Man in a White Coat

A Doctor's Reflections on Race and Medicine

Damon Tweedy, M.D.


Black Man in a White Coat Download image

ISBN10: 1250105048
ISBN13: 9781250105042

Trade Paperback

304 Pages



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When Damon Tweedy begins medical school, he envisions a bright future where his segregated, working-class background will become largely irrelevant. Instead, he finds that he has joined a new world where race is front and center. The recipient of a scholarship designed to increase black student enrollment, Tweedy soon meets a professor who bluntly questions whether he belongs in medical school, a moment that crystallizes the challenges he will face throughout his career. Making matters worse, in lecture after lecture the common refrain for numerous diseases resounds, "More common in blacks than in whites."

Black Man in a White Coat examines the complex ways in which both black doctors and patients must navigate the difficult and often contradictory terrain of race and medicine. As Tweedy transforms from student to practicing physician, he discovers how often race influences his encounters with patients. Through their stories, he illustrates the complex social, cultural, and economic factors at the root of many health problems in the black community. These issues take on greater meaning when Tweedy is himself diagnosed with a chronic disease far more common among black people. In this powerful, moving, and deeply empathetic book, Tweedy explores the challenges confronting black doctors, and the disproportionate health burdens faced by black patients, ultimately seeking a way forward to better treatment and more compassionate care.


Praise for Black Man in a White Coat

“On one level the book is a straightforward memoir; on another it’s a thoughtful, painfully honest, multi-angled, constant self-interrogation about himself and about the health implications of being black.”—Sarah Lyall, The New York Times

Black Man in a White Coat offers a clear, informative and uncommonly balanced assessment. Tweedy unflinchingly examines historical patterns of racial inequity in health care. But he also brings attention to often-overlooked indicators of progress . . . Attentive to the frustrating inequalities rooted in our history, Tweedy’s Black Man in a White Coat is also usefully attuned to the promising prospects ahead.”—Randall Kennedy, The Washington Post

“Tweedy’s vulnerability makes him a vivid and engaging narrator . . . [Black Man in a White Coat] makes important contribution to the ongoing debate about health care in America. Tweedy has advanced a much-needed public conversation about racial disparities in medicine which, while less familiar to most Americans than the deaths that inspired the Black Lives Matter movement, continue to cost black lives.”—The Boston Globe

“In ways wholly individual but similarly intricate, Margo Jefferson, Dr. Damon Tweedy and Ta-Nehisi Coates examine the impact of race on our expectations and experiences. And in doing so, they challenge us to as well.”—Time

“A powerful case on how, in the era of Obamacare and the nation’s first black president, race can still determine who gets sick and lives, or dies.”—The Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

“Required reading for African-Americans and health care professionals.”—Raleigh News & Observer

"A revealing, moving, and courageous examination of racism in American health care . . . [Tweedy's] willingness to be self-critical as well as his reluctance to be overtly partisan gives Tweedy’s book an evenhandedness that lends its conclusions added weight, even when he wades into partisan waters."The Daily Beast

"This is a book that is accessible and engaging to read. It will complement the reading list of advanced undergraduate courses such as African American psychology, medical sociology, and health psychology that cover issues addressing discrimination and bias. Graduate courses in American and cultural studies, health psychology, public policy, public administration, and public health represent other obvious settings for inclusion of a text like this. Less obvious but no less deserving is the curriculum for medical students who typically encounter some smattering of courses not focused on clinical matters, which are designed to enrich the medical school experience and insights of the soon-to-be physician. This book will surely accomplish this goal. I highly recommend it.”PsycCRITIQUES

“[A] heartfelt account . . . Black Man in a White Coat is a commentary on challenges and lessons [Dr. Tweedy has] encountered as a physician of color, offering first-hand truths about the medical issues and racial divides in health care plaguing our community.”—Ebony

“While many doctors write books—the Greek physician Ctesias in antiquity, Atul Gawande today—few have concerned themselves with race. Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor's Reflections on Race and Medicine is Tweedy’s thoughtful answer to that gap.”—Newsday

“In this fascinating, heartbreaking memoir, Tweedy documents his experiences as an African American doctor in a medical system that can be 'just as sick as its patients.'”—O, Oprah Magazine

“Tweedy reveals all you need to know about the Byzantine health care system, wide-ranging disparities that persist and, more important, how we can take control of our well-being . . . Black Man in a White Coat is certain to garner incredible attention during the literary awards season. It's a book that deserves a very long shelf life.”—Essence

“Fascinating . . . What sets this book in motion is Tweedy’s dogged quest to understand how his personal experience relates to the staggering issue of health care inequality. In the process, he shines a light on disparities than can be hard to fathom . . . An engaging, introspective memoir that will force readers to contemplate the uncomfortable reality that race impacts every aspect of life, even medicine . . . A timely, thought-provoking examination of our heartbreaking health care system.”—USA Today

“Tweedy uses vivid anecdotes to ground his critiques of physician prejudice and health concerns that affect his community . . . It’s this investment in the personal that makes Black Man in a White Coat especially powerful. Tweedy’s perspective—and his willingness to challenge his own fundamental biases—puts a voice to a social epidemic that demands to be addressed.”—Maclean's

“Tweedy, an African American psychiatrist at Duke University, expertly weaves together statistics, personal anecdotes, and patient stories to explain why 'being black can be bad for your health' . . . A smart, thought-provoking, frontline look at race and medicine.”—Booklist, starred review

“An arresting memoir that personalizes the enduring racial divide in contemporary American medicine . . . In this unsparingly honest chronicle, Tweedy cohesively illuminates the experiences of black doctors and black patients and reiterates the need for improved understanding of racial differences within global medical communities.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Eye-opening . . . [Tweedy's] painful anecdotes, both as an intern and physician, show the critical health crisis within the black community . . . [and] he nicely unravels the essential issues of race, prejudice, class, mortality, treatment, and American medicine without blinking or polite excuses.”—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
People Like Us

It was a hot late-summer morning, a month into my first year as a Duke medical student. The classroom of 100 students buzzed with energy. After a few weeks of tedious lectures that seemed no...

About the author

Damon Tweedy, M.D.

Damon Tweedy is a graduate of Duke Medical School and Yale Law School. He is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center and staff physician at the Durham VA Medical Center. He has published articles about race and medicine in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and the Annals of Internal Medicine. His columns and op-eds have appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Raleigh News & Observer, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He lives outside Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

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Damon Tweedy M.D.

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