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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Salter and Doris Cochran, April 12, 1997. Interview R-0014. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Some positive changes in medical profession, but not enough African Americans in supervisory positions

Salter reflects on changes in the medical profession. He thinks that there has been a great deal of improvement, but that many doctors still do not understand the unique needs of minorities. African Americans do not hold management positions, Salter and Doris worry.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Salter and Doris Cochran, April 12, 1997. Interview R-0014. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Dr. Cochran, can you talk about how health care specifically has changed for African Americans since you moved here?
When we moved here, my wife helped establish the OB/GYN clinic down in Halifax. [She appealed to the Halifax County health director.] They had never had that. I used to see pregnant women who had never been to the doctor, and this was their sixth or seventh child. Most of the time, it was home deliveries, and they had midwives around here. Health has changed vastly since we've had the influx of other doctors. You could practice basic medicine, but never advanced medicine. I'd better clarify that. Basic medicine was the medicine you did until you got to a certain stage, and then you'd try to refer them or do the best you could. General practitioners. But now, we have quite a few specialists in the area, and I feel more comfortable and dependent upon them. I don't fail to seek consultationߞI've done that all my life. I don't figure that I know all the answers, even in general practice, to all the medical problems that exist. I immediately call a consultation. If we can't handle it here, let's move it out. I figure medicine has improved, but man has a long ways to go in medicine. We've improved life expectancies, however in 1900 they predicted that we'd live to be 130 in 2000. That doesn't exist. We only have a little over 4,000 people over a hundred now, however they predict in 2050 that we'll have multi-millions, four or five million people living to be 100 or better. I figure because of the advent of new drugs, we're able to help people. However, diseases like cholera, before they found a treatment, caused a lot of deaths. Now AIDS and various forms of cancer might cause your early departure. The gentlemen here keep up rather closely, and they're well-trained, most of them. The East Indians have two or three specialty boards. That's the positive. The negative is, I don't really think they understand minorities. They might have a background of being poor, but the doctors who come over here are the ones who have something, and have never really associated [with poor people]. In India, they probably don't know much about the untouchables of the past. Those people still exist. And they have a difficult time understanding the blacks of this area, because it's not an area a lot of them are used to dealing with. They have to deal with the language, and understanding what's wrong with people. I would say, not to put them down, but we have a lot of trouble with communication. But that is improving, because in one segment of the population, those between 20 and 30, these people have worked on communication, and do a little better. But above that, you have problems. And below that, you have problems, even though within the school system, they're supposed to be producing better students. But they said better academic students, they didn't say better moral students, or students who can apply what they've learned. But I think we're making progress, very slowly, or else you would have seen a better area when you drove in. Now here's something. They bring blacks into the higher echelon, and we don't even know they're here.
They don't usually advertise these things in the paper. The people who are in higher positions who are black, we don't hear much about. Usually, you find just the opposite in the white communityߞthey'll put their pictures in, and talk about the person so you're able to know them. The man who publishes the paper now, who's getting ready to leave the area and has been here for about 12 years, is a tremendous liberal compared to the man who was here before. There was no comparison, but still, because of the pressures of the community, they're loathe to come right out and talk about these things.