Prominent Black Jefferson Abington Surgeon, Mistaken for a Car Valet, Responds with Call to Learn

Orlando Kirton
Image via Jefferson Health Abington at The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Dr. Orlando Kirton.

Orlando Kirton, a prominent Black surgeon at Jefferson Health Abington, was standing outside his hotel at a recent national medical conference waiting for an Uber ride. A man approached him, glanced his way, mistakenly thought he was part of the hotel staff, and asked him to get his car.

Tom Avril, of The Philadelphia Inquirer, reported Kirton’s reaction and the hope for continued progress in erasing stereotypes.

Kirton described the experience in an essay in the New England Journal of Medicine. The piece was co-written by fellow Black surgeon Selwyn O. Rogers, who had navigated a similar generalization at an American College of Surgeons meeting.

The stranger’s exact words to Kirton — “Can you get my car? … Aren’t you the valet?” — carried a sting, but not an unprecedented one.

“We have seemingly climbed the ladder of meritorious success,” the coauthors wrote. “Yet we are constantly reminded that we have not traveled a great distance [in our status as] Black men in the United States.”

The Harvard-trained surgeons conclude with a compelling takeaway: “Each side can simply be angry with the other. Or we could look at the interaction as an opportunity for us both to learn,” they wrote.

Read more about Orlando Kirton in The Philadelphia Inquirer.


Combating systemic racism is a matter of small displays of individual character, as this Lyft driver’s viral video demonstrated.

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