The numbers are challenging to digest, only 5% of the nation’s doctors are black and of that, only 2% are black females. The need for diversity in medicine is of one the issues that Dr. Kimberly Gilbert a metro-Atlanta Physician, Entrepreneur, Speaker, and Author is now championing to see across the country. Dr. Gilbert, who is a board-certified physiatrist, understands these numbers all too well—because is she is black and serves patients in the largely white-dominated field of medicine. Dr. Gilbert continues to serve despite the gender and racial inequities and challenges that she experiences each day. She knows what it is like to be among the 2%—and that is exactly why she wants to see a dramatic rise in the numbers.
Dr. Gilbert, who is originally from Louisiana, came to Atlanta to complete her residency at Emory University following medical school at Louisiana State University School of Medicine. Since then, she has heard the same experiences from other black female physicians. The similarities of being constantly overlooked, recommendations called into question, and contributions diminished are just some of the challenges black doctors face each day. The notion that black physicians have to constantly prove themselves—according to Dr. Gilbert is exhausting. She knows exactly what those instances of chronic marginalization can do—especially when you endeavor to provide the best possible care for patients every day. Dr. Gilbert says, “It forces you to use even more energy to get past it, making your job harder to do.”
For example, in certain instances she will meet with patients to explain their treatment plans, recommendations and answer patient questions and as soon as she is done, they will ask, “So…when do I see the doctor?” despite the fact that she is wearing a white coat with her name emblazoned over her heart with the letters MD etched beside them. “The assumption comes that I cannot possibly be the doctor. I must be someone else,” says Dr. Gilbert. Now, she believes it is time to reconcile with these marginalizing experiences and quiet conversations that black doctors share with one another to offer solutions forward.
“First, I want black physicians to know their worth, to be the best at their craft, know their boundaries, and know how to keep their lives balanced,” says Dr. Gilbert. She believes this will help release any toxic attachments of bitterness or resentment.
She also wants to see a world where racism and sexism are eradicated. She wants to live and work in an environment where they are not tolerated, and for people to know that everyone is better off when we can all embrace our differences.
Being fully valued for who you are and for what you bring to the table by the world around you would be a most marvelous way of life, I can imagine. I believe when you are being valued in this capacity it creates a self-sustaining, just, supportive, and thriving community you can always depend on. You can then return the favor and respect others the same. Anything less begets an imbalanced community, where some people feel better about themselves than others, a world where lack of appreciation can lead to a lack of ambition and creativity. This kind of community is filled with instability, where some get a good life and others do not. And, it is largely based upon an overall choice to take part in, or equally as bad, even tolerate racism and inequality toward certain people.
-Excerpt, So…When Do I See the Doctor? by Kimberly Gilbert, MD.
Dr. Gilbert relies heavily on her faith and desire to help others. She wants to encourage young people, especially those who seek a career in medicine, to stay encouraged and push forward the despite the odds they face. She wants them to know that because she made it, they can do the same. She encourages them to stay the course and fight the good fight of faith because there are many people depending on them to provide quality care. Her vision forward is reflected in one her favorite passages of scripture, Let us run with perseverance toward the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1). Dr. Gilbert wants to see a more diverse health care system where patients, physicians and students can all benefit from the richness that diversity in care provides.