In a hospital in Conceição de Macabu, Dr. Fred Nicácio shares the reaction of a 74-year old black woman’s joy at be consulted by a black doctor for the first time in her life
Realizing the importance of what happened, doctor posts the event online and story goes viral
By Marques Travae
Some of you may remember Dr. Fred William Nicácio. His story was featured in a BW of B post back in July of this year. Dr. Fred is a general practitioner working in his birth city of Rio de Janeiro. In that post, Nicácio had already demonstrated his engagement in the race question and how some of his patients expressed a certain joy in being attended by a black doctor. Recently, this happened again and Nicácio decided to post the event on his social network profile.
In Brazil, seeing black musicians and athletes is quite common, so it only makes sense that many of our children look up to them, but many, if not most important positions in society are filled by persons who are white, are seen as white or consider themselves white. Because of policies such as affirmative action, this has been slowly changing in the past few decades, but the questions still remain: “How many black doctors have you ever seen?”. “How many black professors have you ever had?”. “How many black scientists have you ever seen?”. Of course, there will be those who will insist that it doesn’t matter, but the reaction of one of Dr. Fred’s recent patients shows that it does matter.
Back in August, Dr, Fred was carrying out his duties at a hospital in Conceição de Macabu, a town of about 27,000 residents located in the north region of the state of Rio de Janeiro, when he came to meet Dona Eunice, a 74-year old black woman. After her consultation, Dr. Fred once again realized the importance of his presence as a black doctor for his patients. He detailed the consultation in a post. Under the photo he took with Eunice, the doctor wrote:
“This is Dona Eunice, and at the height of her 74 years, it was the first time she was consulted by a black doctor. Thank you for giving me that honor, Dona Eunice.”
Eunice was accompanied in her visit to the hospital with her 9-year old grandson, who seemed to also have a look of appreciation on his face.
“She had that face of admiration, of which she is seeing something very special, that in which the little eye starts to shine. I had a contained smile and then I noticed her face of contentment, and I said: ‘is everything ok, ma’am?’ She said yes but that she wanted to take a picture with me. I said, ‘Of course, but why?’ That’s when she revealed that it was the first time she was being treated by a black doctor. So, she won me over, broke me down, and I gave in,” Dr. Fred said.
It was not only Dr. Fred who understood the importance of what Eunice had revealed. After posting his story, by Friday, it was already over 20,000 likes and 10,000 shares on his social network profile. The story even ended being shared on one of the top morning shows on television, Globo TV’s Encontro com Fátima Bernardes. In this appearance on the program, Dr. Fred explained why seeing more black doctors is important in a country such as Brazil. The idea of race and place and what black people are and are not expected to be. And we’ve seen numerous stories that demonstrate how Brazil reacts when black people ascend and start appearing in places where they are not expected to be (see here, here and here)
“It’s happened that I’ve gone through situations where the patient arrived … and I like to be in the middle of the nursing team, and the person goes up to the first white person she sees, because structurally she’s received a legacy that the black man could not may be the leader of that team, the black cannot occupy the place of the doctor. This is wrong and it’s not to be like that,” he told Bernardes.
I know that some of you may interpret the above situation that Dr. Fred shared and conclude, it’s not necessarily so that the patient automatically assumed he couldn’t have been a doctor, but we know that this attitude is very common so it IS a possibility. On the same program, Fred also revealed that he was one of only two black students of his class.
Addressing the meaning of the consultation, Fred shared his thoughts on the issue.
“It motivated me to post to ask this question: how many black doctors have you ever had in your life? Are you going to have to wait 74 years for Dona Eunice to be treated? The most incredible thing about this story is that her grandson did not have to wait 74 years to be treated by a black doctor.”
Although Dr. Fred was just fulfilling his role of serving the community, in the social context, he also realizes how powerful just his presence in a medical profession in which few people look like him. Fred is part of a generation that wants people to know that, yes, black people are futebol stars and singers, as well as maids, doormen and cleaning women, but they are also doctors, lawyers and CEOs.
“I assume that I have this role and now even more with this exposure. I have a responsibility with these issues and it even touches me to know that I am a voice, a voice for millions of people. So this must change. I want to be an agent of that change and, God willing, I will,” said Fred.
Dr.Fred is originally from the city of Campos dos Goytacazes, which is a city of more than a half million residents located in the interior of Rio state about 170 miles from the capital city of Rio de Janeiro.
Nicácio is a physiotherapist and also a medical student.