"Why do black people suffer more health problems than other groups? What do these challenges mean in their everyday lives? How do their struggles play out before a largely white medical community? How can we begin to solve these seemingly intractable problems? Do I have a special role to play as a black physician? Confronting these questions has led me on an intellectual and emotional journey, one that I’ve tried to capture in the pages that follow.
I’ve divided the book into three sections, corresponding to the different phases of my medical life. Part I surveys my medical school years. Part II explores my grueling twelve months of medical internship as a newly minted doctor. Part III examines my subsequent years in psychiatry training and in early clinical practice. Throughout each stage, race played a recurrent role, at turns predictable and unexpected, often annoying, sometimes disheartening, and occasionally uplifting. By sharing my story, as well as the stories of some of the patients I’ve met over the past fifteen years, I hope to humanize the dire statistics and bitter racial debates and paint a fuller picture of the experiences of black patients, as well as that of the black doctors who navigate between the black community and the predominately white medical world.
In tracing my journey along the intersection of race and medicine at the end of the twentieth century and the dawn of the twenty-first, I make no claim to speak for all black physicians or black patients, yet I am confident that much of what I have written will ring true to their varied experiences. By putting human faces on these serious dilemmas, I hope to contribute to a much-needed public dialogue on improving the health of black people. Jim’s fate—a young black person robbed of his future—is one that far too many of us suffer."