Ten years ago, a drunk woman yelling at a driver in the middle of the street would’ve been nothing more than a blurred memory after a drunken night out.
Today, thanks to the power of smartphones, social media, and the 24-hour news cycle, one Miami doctor’s lapse in judgment and night of bad behavior turned into headline news, was parodied online, and led to her trial in the court of public opinion.
Dr. Anjali Ramkissoon, a fourth-year neurology resident at Jackson Health System, was propelled into the national and international media spotlight after a stranger recorded her belligerent behavior as she attacked an Uber driver in Miami.
The video immediately went viral, drawing hundreds of thousands of views and attracting national and international media coverage.
At this point, it’s unclear whether her live sit-down with GMA’s George Stephanopoulos helped her win back the trust of her colleagues and superiors at Jackson. What it did do, at the very least, is give her the chance to take control of her story and influence the public’s perception of her. She was able to show the world that she was more than her mistakes, displaying a more palatable side of herself than the one portrayed in the cell phone video. She took the opportunity to protect herself from being painted only with that brush and, although that may not save her job at Jackson, it could lay the foundation for a redemption story that lets her work her way back toward a career.
It is clear that, in today’s YouTube society, this sort of quick address and response is not simply valuable; moreover, it has become essential. In the light of public scrutiny, reputation, whether it’s a company’s or an individual’s, is the only protection any of us have.
As Dr. Ramkissoon’s reputation hangs in the balance, it also reflects on Jackson Health Systems. As they decide whether or not to reinstate her, they have to consider not only whether or not she’s fit to work as a doctor but alsohow keeping her on staff could further damage the hospital’s reputation by association.
Even her staunchest critics are quick to admit that Dr. Ramkissoon’s drunken tirade does not have anything to do with her capacity to practice medicine – not in a direct way. It does, however, show poor character and proper judgment, which could cause reasonable concern among patients. Even in today’s fairly cynical public climate, doctors are still held to a high moral standard. We trust them to care for us and for our loved ones. And yes, they are obviously people with the same faults and foibles as the rest of us –but we expect them to work to be better. It’s an image we are collectively invested in maintaining, which has led to this fierce and firm societal backlash against Dr. Ramkissoon’s Very Bad Night.
Since hospitals treat a wide variety of patients 24-hours a day, they are constantly exposed to a rotating medley of patient-related and staff-related public relations challenges that they know can make or break their business. This is why the decision regarding Dr. Ramkissoon’s future employment will be based in no small part on how that decision impacts the hospital’s image within the community. Only time will tell if Dr. Ramkissoon’s decision to “break her silence” will repair her image, help her regain her job, and give her the opportunity to put her career back on track.