George Floyd, race, and psychiatry: How to talk to patients


Editor’s Note: This transcript from the June 5 special episode of the Psychcast has been edited for clarity.

Nick Andrews: This is the Psychcast, the official podcast of MDedge Psychiatry. I am the voice of the MDedge podcasts, Nick Andrews. We are bringing this special edition of the Psychcast from MDedge in response to all of the unrest, peaceful or otherwise, in the United States in the aftermath of the shocking murder of George Floyd in late May of 2020.

Dr. Lorenzo Norris agreed to have this “after hours” discussion, believing the most appropriate response would be for us to have a real conversation about it. So welcome aboard.

Lorenzo Norris, MD: I’m happy to be here, Nick, and I’m so pleased to be talking with our guest, Dr. Brandon Newsome, a young black male psychiatrist. Dr. Newsome, sir, tell us a little about yourself and where you’re coming from.

Brandon Newsome, MD: I’m a 4th-year psychiatry resident at Boston Medical Center, so I’m about to graduate and to become a first-year fellow, as of July, at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. I was born and raised in the South so I can talk about those experiences, and now I’ve been in the Northeast for the past 4 years.

Dr. Norris: Let’s get right into it. This is a time in our country that we’ve not seen – I shouldn’t say we, because depending on where you live in America, you have seen this and you’ve seen this multiple times.

I see a lot of myself in Dr. Newsome right now, and I am struggling with this: I’m talking to you about the same stuff I was talking about when I was a 4th-year resident. I’m talking to you about the same stuff I was talking about when I was a college student. I’m still talking about the same stuff I was talking about when I was a medical student. I’m still talking about the same things that were the impetus for the hip-hop generation regarding police brutality and violence.

We are still talking about the use of lethal force and abuse of power, particularly by police or law enforcement officers, and how that is perpetrated against African American men in particular, and the unfortunate and tragic murder of Mr. George Floyd. Dr. Newsome, tell me how you’re thinking about this. Before we even get into how our patients or our colleagues are doing, how are you doing with this?

Dr. Newsome: It’s been difficult. Like you, I’ve heard this story time and time again. I was just on a panel, having a conversation about race and policing, and I realized we had the same conversation during my first or second year of residency because there had been another death. But even though all of these unfortunate deaths are triggering us, this one is a little different for me for a few reasons. As you know, this is happening with the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis and we’re already seeing so many people, especially from black and brown communities, dying from that.


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