In the United States, less than four percent of practicing physicians are African American. As of 2010, only 18,533 (less than 2 percent) were both black and female. And as of this week, two star alongside doctors' wives on Bravo's new reality series, Married to Medicine.
A month before the show was even set to premiere, students at Howard University College of Medicine, a historically black school, launched a petition on Change.org calling for it to be taken off the air. Just through its advertisements, they wrote, the show "heavily associates black females in medicine with materialism, 'cat fights,' and unprofessionalism.'" Even more pertinent to their own interests, they wrote, "as residency positions are becoming increasingly competitive (particularly for black women) and contingent upon social behavior of graduating medical students, this depiction will only hinder black female physicians from attaining competitive residencies." The petition so far has garnered over 2,000 signatures. The show's premiere, on March 24, drew 1.9 million viewers.
"This is affecting our field, and this is affecting our future," Olabola Awosika, the petition's author, told me. Like the women on the show, Awosika is originally from Atlanta. Having earned her B.S. from the University of Virginia and a master's in complementary and alternative medicine from Georgetown, she is currently in her second year of medical training. When I met with her and a group of her classmates at Howard, they were surrounded by notes and study guides for Step 1, the first major test toward board certification.