The Physician Spotlight is an interview series highlighting prominent members of the Doximity network. Each interview sheds light on the unique challenges physicians face in medicine today and how Doximity’s tools and technology are helping doctors solve these issues. This week, we interviewed Dr. Danielle Hairston, Program Director, Psychiatry at Howard University.
Q: What does it mean to be part of a community like Doximity?
A: It means that you have a network. To be a part of a community like Doximity, I know that I can find a resource, I can look something up, I can also make calls and reach out without people knowing my phone number. I can fax things, you can really be a doctor on the go. And I think that's how Doximity has helped me a lot, especially in this time of the pandemic, like being able to do a lot of things virtually from your phone. We're all trying to adapt. This is a period of great adaptation. And I think Doximity is helping us to really adapt and move forward.
Q: How has Doximity been able to help you easily connect with your patients?
A: Because of the Doximity app, and the ability for me to be able to fax, message, call my patients with a number that's not my personal number so that I can still connect to them. That's incredibly helpful. And it helps me to connect with other physicians. I get messages from other physicians who are asking me about things, about racism, asking me things about COVID, and this endemic and pandemic and also allows me to reach out very quickly to my residents.
Q: Why did you choose a career in medicine?
A: I had a very supportive family. No one in my family is a physician. I come from a family of educators and teachers. They were like, “What do you want to do?”. They supported me. I had my father who told people I was going to be the first Doctor Hairston in our family. And he did whatever it was to make sure that happened, whether that was taking me from track weeks to SAT prep, to making sure I was in science camp as a five year old. Just whatever I wanted to do, my family was really supportive. And I think I was also inspired by just the lack of people who look like me in medicine. I was fortunate enough to have a black pediatrician. I had pediatricians from many diverse backgrounds, but I had one who was a black woman, and I was like, “Oh okay, this is something I can do.” I think that the visibility was very important that I learned that women of color, black women can be physicians. So it wasn't something that I questioned. And I later learned that was a privilege for me, that many people don't have that same experience. So I think that mentors pushing me and my undergrad program telling me, “You want to do this? You gotta eat your books. You have to be in this program. You have to take this MCAT prep class,” but always knowing that I had someone behind me to push me and my own individual motivation. It was a multitude of things, but really my community and my family.
Q: You have been a very strong voice in advancing the discussion around racial biases and diversity in medicine. What steps can others take to become educated on these very important topics?
A: I have been very vocal. And I'll say I've been instrumental, and especially in my field and in my organizations, about discussing and educating about racial bias and racial discrimination in medicine. I think that this is something that many people are not comfortable with. But honestly, we have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You have to ask these questions. And really, the first thing that has to happen is that you validate that these experiences are affecting other physicians or colleagues and are affecting the patients that they serve. People are not without history, they don't just forget things that have happened to them, to themselves to their family members, to their friends. And the medical field is not innocent here, you know, they have been complicit and promoting and perpetuating some of these biases. And if we don't talk about it, and we continue to act like, “Well, I don't really think that that was racist,” or “I don't think that that happened.” we're not going to move forward. And I think that many of us are highly educated, many of us have letters on letters behind our names. And you do have the ability to understand. You do have the ability to research. You do have the ability to commit your time to eradicating these biases, and really attacking structural racism. So I think that it's something that we can no longer excuse. And it's something that people have to validate, accept, and work on making changes at a systemic level and at an individual level.
Q: What more do you believe can be done to achieve health equity and increased access around telehealth?
A: I know that telehealth has been helpful for many people, but there remains this digital divide. And when we think about health equity and accessibility, we have to understand that everyone does not have the same access to online resources. Everyone does not have the same access to WiFi and data. So this digital divide remains. And I think that what we can do is similar to something that they do in the school system for children who don't have WiFi or a safe space or internet at home. They have these hotspots that they've made through the cities, in different counties in different districts. I think that that's something that we should really think about for healthcare and for telehealth services. If a patient has to decide between using their data or WiFi for the month of their monthly plan, if they have that privilege between calling you, a physician, and talking to you and using up their data or talking to their family and friends and checking on them, that’s a difficult decision. And I don't think that they should be put in that position.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about what you do?
A: I enjoy a lot about what I do. I feel that in this field of psychiatry and especially being a consultation psychiatrist, that I have the opportunity to do a little bit of this, a little bit of that. I create content. I speak. I teach. I like providing care for my patients and trying to figure out what's going on...But the thing that I really like about my job most is teaching and training my medical students and my residents. The residents keep me motivated. There's no way that I could keep doing this job if it wasn’t for them. I think that they might not know that, but I'm really like, “Okay, I'm gonna get up and do this for them because I know that they are the future. And I want them to go forth and be part of this amazing psychiatric and medical field.
About the Women in White Coats
The WomenInWhiteCoats blog is the voice of women in white coats. It is a forum for women in healthcare to discuss the issues that face us as a group. It is a place to advocate for change in improving inequalities in healthcare. It also is a place to provide mentorship to the next generation of women in white coats.
Dr. Hairston was recently named the “2020 Hero of the Year” at its annual Women in White Coats Heroes event.
“It’s an honor to be selected as the Hero of the Year,” said Dr. Hairston. “I am just incredibly thankful that so many people are behind me. So many people have supported me, from students, to the nursing staff, to my colleagues, to my family.”
Nominations are now open for the 2021 Women in White Coats Heroes Dinner taking place in the spring! To nominate a woman that is showing dedication towards making their respective field better, click here.