Dennis Cross, M.D. is an Our Lady of Peace Hospice physician. He believes he was admitted to medical school in 1976 because a photo wasn’t required with his application. Up to this point, only two African Americans had been admitted to Marquette Medical School (now Medical College of Wisconsin). Dennis Cross was number three, based on his merit and not the color of his skin. Three others followed that year.
Dr. Cross will tell you that any African American over age 60 will have experienced some trauma in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. He will also tell you that over his career as a physician, he has met patients and family members who are distrusting of his care, simply because he is black.
In honor of #Black History Month, we spoke with Dr. Cross about some of his experiences. He said, “We can’t rewrite history, but we can learn from it.” The goal is not to make people feel bad, but to open the line of communication about racial issues with a goal of human kindness, honesty, and respect.”
Dr. Cross offers these communication tips for respectful cross-cultural interaction.
- Ask questions
Ask people how they would like to be addressed and how they would like you to interact with them. This sets the tone for respectful conversation.
- Don’t be afraid to be honest
It’s okay to say, “I don’t intend to be disrespectful or offend you, so please let me know if I am.”
- Lean in and make eye contact when having a conversation
Body language speaks for itself. Leaning in shows you’re interested in what a person has to say.
- Show empathy
Empathy is an outcome of human kindness, and it occurs when you take the time to move past assumptions to sincerely understand how a person is feeling. Dr. Cross talks a lot about empathy because it’s important in hospice, but it’s also important in everyday life.
Hear more from Dr. Cross in his video conversation with Dr. Nancy Baker who also provided compassionate hospice care to patients at OLP.
(Watch Dr. Cross conversation with Nancy Baker)