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Dr. Amanda Joy Calhoun is Chief Resident of the Yale Solnit Integrated Program, an
Adult and Child Psychiatry Residency at Yale Child Study Center at the Yale
School of Medicine.
The Black Wall Street Times spoke with Dr. Calhoun about her experiences in the medical field and why bodycams on doctors would lead to better Black patient outcomes.
“There’s a lot of racism in medicine.” Dr. Amanda Calhoun said, “If you look at the history of medicine, even psychiatry specifically, it started out as a racist field.”
She furthered, “When Africans were forced to come to this country, our ancestors first contact with the medical system and its professionals were with some doctors who would teach the slave owners how to torture Black people and not kill them.”
“Hearing all the blatantly racist statements I’ve heard about Black people since I started as a medical student and beyond has been mind-blowing.”
Dr. Calhoun elaborated, “I want Black people to see what is going on because if you saw that, I think it would very much drive policy and put external pressures on hospitals to answer, ‘why is the n-word so prevalent in your hospital with nobody saying anything about it?'”
She mentioned, “With bodycams you would see all of that and it would also protect Black healthcare providers. You would see them go through these instances in which White patients are using the n-word, then go to their supervisor and be told to deal with it.”
Dr. Calhoun graduated from Yale University with a BA in Spanish and received
her MD and MPH from Saint Louis University School of Medicine, in St. Louis,
Missouri, where she grew up.
Dr. Calhoun’s research, which she has conducted both in the USA and in Nigeria, has been funded by multiple national research awards.
“Statistics have been coming out [continuously] that show that Black people are still dying at higher rates across the board in many health outcomes compared to White people,” said Dr. Calhoun. “But beyond that, we are more likely to die from preventable complications.”
Her current research study, funded by the Yale Child Study Center, focuses on the psychological violence of anti-Black racism in children. Dr. Calhoun has authored 30 peer-reviewed publications, including 19 publications that she has first-authored.
Dr. Calhoun also specializes in the effects of medical anti-Black racism.
Dr. Calhoun spoke of the boldness when her White colleagues uttered vile sentiments, “I knew that they thought these things about Black people but it was the fact that you can say this openly walking across the hospital to a group of people seeing a Black man struggling with mental illness, to say ‘that’s one sick bull.’ These types of things were horrifying.”
She stated, “During morning rounds to discuss patients, it was common to just hear blatant anti-Black racist statements.” She later recalled, “I would notice that everybody remained silent when these things were said or people would laugh.”
Dr. Calhoun continued, “After listening to White healthcare professionals talk about Black girl’s hair, likening Black men to bulls, and joke about Black people dying on their watch, I decided that I was not going to be a person who was just going to let that happen without me taking a stand in some way.”
Growing up in a neighborhood reflective of the racism she’s experienced professionally, Dr. Calhoun has long known what it’s like to be the only one in the room. “From a very early age, I was very aware of how racist White people are because I was experiencing and I was seeing it in a different way.”
After matriculating through predominantly White schools, the Yale graduate says, “I was seeing a lot of that stuff from my White teachers and White peers. I was getting those messages that Black people are lower on the racial hierarchy.”
While she may have been told derogatory things about her people, Dr. Calhoun says the Black excellence she’s witnessed over her lifetime debunks any inference of inferiority.
“Black physicians are some of the most brilliant physicians I know and patients of all backgrounds want to be taken care of by them, not because they’re Black, but because of their empathy and all their skill set,” said the psychiatrist.
She explained of her Black colleagues, “They look beyond traditional medicine doing the same thing over and over again and think outside the box and meet patients where they’re at.”
“I love what I do, and even though it sounds difficult the positives greatly outweigh the negatives. I feel so empowered to be sitting in my purpose. It’s a privilege for me to be able to take care of these patients,” says Dr. Calhoun.
Living her purpose, she concluded, “It feels so great to be able to do that every day and so I’m very thankful to my parents and all of the people who have supported me.”
Find out more about Dr. Calhoun at her website.
This interview was edited for brevity.