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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 >>

Lack of communication, exacerbated by racism, causes problems in the health profession

Salter describes treating the poor. He did this often, given the few wealthy residents of the Weldon area. He was surprised to find that most of the area's welfare recipients are white, and are reluctant to visit a black doctor. A lack of communication is a serious problem, one exacerbated by an influx of East Indian physicians who do not communicate well.

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

KAREN KRUISE THOMAS:
Dr. Cochran, I had wanted to ask you about your practice, especially how care for the poor was provided in Weldon. You had mentioned that the other black doctor had had a lot of white patients, some of them wealthy. What was the composition of your practice?
SALTER COCHRAN:
You have a limited number of wealthy people in this area. In treating the poor, you have a race problem within a race. Black people have tendency not to have much confidence in other blacks who are professionals. I don't know if you've ever heard that before.
KAREN KRUISE THOMAS:
Yes, I have.
SALTER COCHRAN:
With me, I found that to be a discouraging thing. But I did the best I could with the poor. I was limited at first with welfare patients, because they didn't send me any of them. The majority of them at that time were blacks, but quite to the contrary, recently, the majority on welfare in our county are white. This was a report from a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who was lecturing. Many doctors in this area were surprised to hear that. It's a well-kept secret.
KAREN KRUISE THOMAS:
Who did the welfare patients go to?
SALTER COCHRAN:
A lot of them came to me, but a lot of them didn't like to come to me.
KAREN KRUISE THOMAS:
Because you were black.
SALTER COCHRAN:
Yeah, isn't it amazing? I guess I'm too direct. You must understand the relationship between patient and doctor in this area. When you talk about medical problems, that's a personal thing, and they don't think you should talk about personal things. They just think you're supposed to try to find out what's wrong with them. So a lot of the white doctors have assumed the attitude that "they don't understand me," and they don't talk to [their patients]. So they just treat what they think is wrong.
KAREN KRUISE THOMAS:
So there's not a lot of communication going on from either side.
SALTER COCHRAN:
No, that's true. Since you've got the East Indian [physicians] as a dominant factor in numbersߞthere are about 18 or 19 [in the county], and the blacks are in second place with about 13 or 14. The Caucasians are at the bottom. More foreign physicians are spreading out in the county now.
KAREN KRUISE THOMAS:
When did East Indians start to come in?
SALTER COCHRAN:
About 20 years ago. They gradually came in. They didn't have a spot to go to in the city. It's rough establishing a practice, unless they worked for a hospital. With me, I don't have a conflict with talking to people, but seemingly, it's been a problem in this area for a long time. I imagine it's a problem all over the country. They don't communicate. But I communicate with them wellߞI communicate with the prisoners down there.