Cover image for Against the odds : Blacks in the profession of medicine in the United States
Against the odds : Blacks in the profession of medicine in the United States
Watson, Wilbur H.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Brunswick, N.J. : Transaction Publishers, [1999]

Physical Description:
xi, 198 pages ; 24 cm
Race, class, and power in the structure of medical practice in the United States -- History and political economy of African American medical education -- Gender in the development and practice of medicine by Blacks -- The significance of physician access of hospitals -- Illness and economic constraints on help-seeking behavior -- Race in the structure of access to treatment -- Doctor shopping behavior -- Stigma and coping with professional degradation -- The vanishing country doctor -- Interfaces of folk and biomedical practitioners -- Ethical issues in the practice of medicine -- Contemporary status of Black physicians
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library R695 .W38 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Racial separatism, gender discrimination, and white dominance have historically thwarted black Americans' occupational aspirations. Access to medical education has also been limited, and mobility within the profession, leading to unequal access to health care. There have, however, been notable triumphs. In Against the Odds, Wilbur Watson describes successful efforts by determined individuals and small groups of black Americans, since the early nineteenth century, to establish a strong black presence in the medical profession. Changes in medical education and hospital management, desegregation of the medical establishment, and the contemporary challenges of managed-care organizations all attest to their achievements.

Watson analyzes sociocultural, political, and psychological factors associated with African-American medical practice; race and gender differences in medical education and professional development; and doctor-patient relationships during and since the period of racial separatism. He discusses the policy implications of physicians' viewpoints on issues such as folk practitioners as health care providers, medical care for the poor, abortion and euthanasia, the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, and the emergence of managed-care organizations. Through in-depth interviews with older physicians and comparative analyses of their situated techniques of coping with racial discrimination and segregation, we gain insight into the effects of separatism on the minds, selves, and social interactions of African-American physicians. Finally, Watson outlines current ethics, demographic changes since desegregation, the contemporary status of black physicians, and recent changes in the socioeconomic organization of the profession of medicine.

Against the Odds is a unique study of the history, ethnography, and social psychology of blacks in medicine. Watson successfully debunks the myth that black physicians were less competent providers than their white counterparts: a myth that persists to this day. First-person accounts, from periods of socially and legally sanctioned racial separatism and the first three decades of desegregation in the United States, bring readers closer to the physicians' lived experiences than mere social or quantitative description. This engaging account will interest those in the fields of African-American studies, medicine, and sociology.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Watson chronicles the sociocultural, political, economic, personal, and professional challenges faced by African American physicians to practice medicine in the US, primarily during the period of racial separatism from 1896 to 1965. He describes the effects of racial segregation, gender discrimination, and social oppression on the lives and practices of black physicians. Analyses provide insight into black applicants' restricted access to medical schools and associations and constraints on black physicians' medical practice and mobility within the profession. Comparative analysis and primary interviews with black physicians document their struggles to practice medicine, develop relationships with patients, and progress in their profession. The often firsthand accounts of the efforts and successes of black physicians and small numbers of black Americans to ensure a place for African Americans within medicine are engrossing. Although the primary foci of the analyses are the limitations to medical school and practice before 1965, the challenges to practice from 1965-95 are described as well: urban changes, managed care, desegregation, and demise of black-only hospitals. Ethical issues, folk practices, black women in medicine, and the current status of black physicians are discussed briefly. All levels. A. Woodtli University of Arizona

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