“Are you here to fix the lights?”

The lecture was fascinating. 

During the mid-class break,  Damon Tweedy, a first year Duke Medical student stretched his tall, 6′ 6″ frame to walk around the hall, excited for the second half that would delve in to the promising therapies for a young boy’s rare disease.

Returning to the room,  the young Black student was approached by his professor and asked: “Are you here to fix the lights?”

This exchange occurs on the second page of his memoir,  Black Man in a White Coat and we are immediately hooked.

This professor held the controls to young Damon Tweedy’s pass or fail grade.

The author beautifully describes the process of his synapses firing and we understand on a much higher level the conflict that he faced. How can he respond truthfully without offending or sabotaging his professional or academic career?  Surrounded by privilege and the academic elite, he knew how much harder he would have to work to prove his scholarship and the thinner tight rope he would have to walk. His sensory narrative allows us to not only see, but to feel. As readers, the room also begins to spin and we steady ourselves by turning the page:

“The sounds of the classroom seemed to vanish. So did my peripheral vision. Calm down, I told myself, maybe he was talking to someone else and only seemed to be looking at me. I glanced behind me. Nobody there. A few classmates were within hearing distance but they seemed too engaged in conversation to notice us. Maybe with all the background noise, I had misheard him.”

Dr. Tweedy, now assistant professor of Psychiatry at his Alma Mater, had heard correctly.

His memoir is not only a fascinating, truthful account of his challenging and educational journey as a student, resident, and practicing physician, but an effective vehicle for conversation and thought.

Join the Health Sciences Library, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and the NYMC Chapter of the Student National Medical Association, and our Anti-Racism Book Club for another virtual discussion held on several convenient dates and times by registering here.