Delta Flight Attendants Question Credentials of Harvard Medical School Instructor – After Delta Promised They Wouldn’t Do That

Two years ago a black female doctor responded to a medical emergency on a flight and Delta flight attendants rejected the help, not believing she could be a doctor.

She got a response she wasn’t prepared for.

“Oh no, sweetie, put [your] hand down,” Cross recalled the flight attendant saying. “We are looking for actual physicians or nurses or some type of medical personnel, we don’t have time to talk to you.”

The reason behind the flight attendant’s apparent skepticism? Cross says it was because she is black.

At the time Delta said it ‘didn’t reflect their culture’. Delta apologized and assured that they had changed their policies to prevent this from happening again. Delta flight attendants were no longer supposed to insist on medical credentials.

Except it happened again. Flight attendants insisted on seeing credentials. And then didn’t believe the credentials of a black female instructor at Harvard Medical School.

[Dr.] Stanford said she was already aiding the passenger when a flight attendant came by to check the situation. According to Stanford, the flight attendant asked if she was a doctor, to which Stanford replied yes.

Stanford said she continued to stabilize the passenger when a second flight attendant came to ask for her medical license. Stanford showed the flight attendant her license. Stanford said that shortly afterward both flight attendants came back and questioned her credentials and asked if the medical license she was carrying belonged to her.

This was a Delta Connection flight from New York LaGuardia to Charlotte. It was operated by Republic Airlines with an Embraer ERJ-175. It carries a Delta flight number — DL5953 — and the aircraft flies with Delta livery. If the procedures Delta put into place two years ago apply only to their mainline aircraft this points to a problem with how they manage their regional affiliates, I think. To the customer this is Delta and it apparently does reflect the Delta culture they’re experiencing.

Naturally Delta was concerned to learn about the incident.

They need to ensure though that their customers are treated the same way on all of their flights, regional and mainline, and that includes equal respect for medical professionals who respond to other passengers in need.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Note to airlines, we don’t just carry a medical license around like a passport or drivers license. There is no such thing as credentials or paperwork (no I’m not bringing my diploma with me everywhere I go).

    It sucks being hounded continuously whenever I volunteer my help.

    I was on an Etihad flight with a lady having an inflight seizure. Usual call for help goes up overhead. I volunteer my help and am told I need to provide my credentials (See above). They refuse to let me see the patient. I finally was able to pull out some prescription bottles from my carry on for anti-emetics that I had prescribed my wife. After inspecting my passport and cross checking with the ground physician they let me see the patient. I promptly injected her with valium intramuscularly, monitored her throughout the flight and left a lengthy report for her and the airline.

    About 6 months later I received a thank you and 10,000 Etihad guest points. I probably saved Etihad much more money then that and didn’t sleep in my business class seat. At the end I helped someone which gives me comfort and wasn’t expecting anything from the patient. However, I think airlines in general should be more generous as this is a “for profit” operation for them and I saved them quite a bit of $$$ from a medical diversion.

  2. Flight attendants should be required to carry their high school diplomas and should make them available upon passenger request. Let’s not forget, most of these people working for $12/hour as receptionists if they hadn’t gotten their airline gig.

  3. I have no sympathy for airlines as businesses in general, but I have less for US3 unionized old bitter uneducated flight attendants who spend their time reading cosmopolitan and working on their schedule (or working on their nails…)
    They are an old breed and the sooner they dissappear the better off society will be

  4. Didn’t happen. I’d bet my next paycheck she is embellishing the story because of some beef she has with the airline. Read her story carefully. Does it sound remotely believable? How many times have we heard these stories only to find out later, after the outcry, that it was a lie?

    If there was another “White” doctor attending to the patient, why did they need to report the patients BP to her and ask for advice?

    Also, since when do FAs have the power to dole out Skymiles?

    Didnt happen.

  5. @chesterwilson. i’m a little confused…intramuscular valium is what you use for nausea? i’d question your credentials as well…

  6. “Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA, FAAP, FACP

    Who knew Twitter allowed so many characters in one’s name? Status anxiety much?

  7. @ Paul — Maybe the commenters are “racist old men,” but maybe your’re also blind to possible bias. If you look at Stanford’s social media, you’ll see she spends a lot of time focusing on “microinequities & microaggressions.” In plain English, any reasonable human being could see her twitter account and wonder whether she has a chip on her shoulder. It is also reasonable to believe that Ms. Stanford could perceive racial bias where others would not.

    You don’t know what happened on that aircraft, and neither do I. I suppose other passengers might speak up, but I’m sure DL won’t. So we’re not likely to get both sides of this story: and I can assure you that there are two sides. There always are. But partisans always forget this and automatically think “their side” is right.

  8. @Mark Join the club. Prescription bottles that showed my name to prove I was a physician. IM Valium as I had stated.

  9. Better not to raise your hand at all…as per Larry David’s Dr friend’s rationale in a recent Curb Your Enthusiasm episode!

  10. I call BS on both chopsticks and Jeff Garvin – I tried to go to their social media, and I didn’t find any kind of race-baiting other than talking about this incident. And I surely did not see them fretting over “micro-inequities” and “micro-aggressions”. Is that what the alt-right is calling racially motivated discrimination and violence in an attempt to minimize its damage and insult?

    How about you point out some links to these race baiting and micro-inequity complaints?

  11. @Haywood Johnson
    I believe Delta FAs have been able to issue Skymiles certificates for service problems since at least 2015.

  12. cargocult – what are your credentials?

    hillbilly, redneck, kindergartendropout, republican, maga, tons of guns, no teeth, racist, white

    I bet in your mind, the only status that matters is that you’re white

  13. It’s unfortunate that we can’t magically transform the blog-posting @chopsticks character (and other persons critical of those claiming to have been treated unequally due to “race”) into an African-American woman and make @chopsticks (and other such characters) live the rest of life like that and then get back to us with their own near-death-bed report on what life was like before and after the “racial” transformation.

    Ethnic minorities do encounter negative differential treatment from the majority/plurality (and even from persons of the same ethnic background) and it shows up in various ways on and off the plane.

    I personally welcome people and companies being called out for operating on the basis of racist prejudices and for encouraging people to consider that this kind of stuff really does happen and happen frequently.

  14. @SadStateOfOurNation

    “cargocult – what are your credentials?

    hillbilly, redneck, kindergartendropout, republican, maga, tons of guns, no teeth, racist, white”

    I guess you don’t find it pathetic when people try to establish their authority by tacking on all the titles and credentials they can to their names. Perhaps you are especially impressed when some Progressive Authority establishes (f)aer/eir/his/pers/her/their/vis/xyr/hir authoritah with the belt and suspenders of Dr. Progressive Authority, Ph.D.

    As for my credentials, you really nailed me down with amazing accuracy. The central planning committee should put you in charge of its next Five Year Plan. Your powers of perception surely obviate the need for price discovery through markets.

    Judging from your username, I think you might be suffering from some anxiety. Don’t blame me; I voted for Kodos. Oh, and I don’t fly Delta.

  15. @ ChristT — “I call BS on both chopsticks and Jeff Garvin – I tried to go to their social media, and I didn’t find any kind of race-baiting other than talking about this incident.”

    Give us a break. Did you actually READ her twitter account? She’s been complaining all month about the problems of black doctors not getting the respect they deserve. On Oct. 1, for example, she retweeted about black doctors being mistaken for janitorial staff.

    This woman social media feed clearly identifies Stanford as an activist. Maybe she does experience constant racism. Maybe the flight attendants were racist. Again, you weren’t there, and I wasn’t there. But to attack anyone who suggests that her story shouldn’t automatically be assumed to be 100% accurate is EXACTLY the type of thing that makes everyone loathe the “politically correct.”

  16. “I guess you don’t find it pathetic when people try to establish their authority by tacking on all the titles and credentials they can to their names. ”

    At least they earned it.

    Sounds like you’re jealous that a nonwhite is doing well for themselves, hence why you’re so gleeful for that good flight attendant to put the nonwhite back into her place.

  17. Seasoned doctors usually elect to drink up in the front section after takeoff so that they are too drunk to tend emergencies.
    When they’re sober, they hope some other doctor is available to tend emergencies.
    Only when no one is available, they reluctantly raise their hand.

  18. @chopsticks and others who doubt Dr. Stanford’s account, Delta has spoken about this incident and corroborated the doctor’s claim:

    “Delta spokesman Anthony Black confirmed the airline reached out to Stanford as part of an investigation. Black said in a statement that, according to the flight crew’s account, the flight attendants ‘initially misread the credentials offered by the doctor and went to reconfirm her specific medical discipline’.”

    So the FAs, who we must assume are White, violated Delta’s policy by requesting credentials, then they were unable to understand the credentials they requested so they harass the doctor further. Why is a question for Captain Obvious. The FAs stereotype of a young, Black, female didn’t fit their Marcus Welby image for a doctor.

    Of course this was reported by CNN so must be false unless verified by fair-and-balanced “news” sources like The Republican Channel, a.k.a. State TV, a.k.a. Fox News.

  19. I was traveling with my GF – who has 20+ years of critical care emergency flight transport (i.e. helicopter critical care nursing) when there was an inflight emergency over the Atlantic. The overhead call for help went unanswered until a second time when I (a physician) and her went back to help. She showed up – and so did a podiatrist to help a non-english speaking woman in distress. The FA asked for credentials/experience – who do you think they picked to help solve the problem? My GF…. the podiatrist was not happy.

    Credentials should be checked prior to administering very potent medications with limited information – the wrong drug for the wrong reason can be fatal – especially on an airplane.

    Do you really want someone who stayed at a Holiday Inn Express the night before deciding on whether to divert your international long-haul?

  20. A lot of coincidences in the CNN report. Dr Stanford is a friend and colleague of Dr Cross, with whom this originally happened. The patient was sitting next to Dr Stanford. Dr Stanford recently attended some sort conference with the keynote given by Dr Cross on this subject.
    Flight attendants did not prevent Dr Stanford from treating the passenger.
    I don’t think that the Flight attendants deserve to be stereotyped as to their age, race, sex, etc. And one mistake by Delta after 2 or 3 years does not establish a pattern.

  21. @ Michael — And what if the podiatrist was black, and your girlfriend white? We could be reading how a racist flight attendant picked a nurse over a “real doctor.”

    That’s what I don’t like about this politically correct nonsense and rush to judgment. Not everything needs to be a “racial incident.”

    I know if I were a flight attendant and their was more than one medical professional on board willing to help, I’d always pick the African-American. Even if I thought they were less qualified to handle the situation. Who needs to risk being labeled a racist? That’s what’s so wrong about this stuff.

  22. chopsticks –
    I agree – which is why, as mentioned, most doctors order a strong drink as soon as they get on board – to avoid the ethical dilemmas with this kind of stuff. The expectation is that a passenger respond to an onboard problem out of kindness and compassion is unique to medicine – other than the movie Airplane – ever hear about calls for a “is there a pilot, accountant, software engineer, lawyer” onboard? Despite laws that protect against such things, the concerns about liability, is an issue – not to mention the implications for the single passenger vs the entire plane…… not worth the headache for the “thank you and have a few thousand points”


  23. @Jon

    I didn’t assume you were non-white because of your deficient command of English (demonstrated by your ignorance of the difference between jealousy and envy). Nor did I comment on the good doctor’s race. I merely suggested that including five sets of acronyms after one’s name (MD? Mmm-okay. MPH and MPA? Not even a PhD?) reveals a wretched insecurity. Millions of people earn degrees and accreditations without crowing about it in every post on social media. I was not favorably impressed. Apparently your reaction was, “You go, girl!”

    Why do these SJW white knights assume I am a white male? That’s racist. And sexist. And uneducated and unaccomplished? Classist and elitist. Toothless? Uh, dentist?

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