"Why does Grey's Anatomy not have South-Asian doctors?' is a frequent question that used to pop up before 2018 on IMDb forums.
Shonda Rhimes has been applauded for overseeing an ever-growing cast of diverse characters, yet it took the show fourteen seasons to hire two South-Asian doctors as regulars since it first aired in 2005.
Vikram Roy (Rushi Kita), an Indian-American, and Dahlia Qadri (Sophia Ali) of Pakistani descent, were the first South-Asian doctors in Seattle Grace/Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital to be introduced – in season 14 – among a fresh batch of medical interns.
While their roles weren't confined to stereotypical boxes with cringe-worthy accents, both were fired in the latest season, and fans have been left wondering how long they'll have to wait to see another brown character.
According to AAPI (American Association of Physicians of Indian origin), more than 80,000 practicing physicians in the United States are Indian or Indian American. They make up the largest non-Caucasian segment of the American medical community, where they account for one in every seven practicing doctors.
As one of the most popular medical shows of this generation – one with an otherwise strong history of representation – it is disappointing when such an important and obvious segment has been ignored for fourteen seasons.
Some patients and nurses with South Asian heritage have popped up every now and then for some fleeting seconds, but the lack of visibility was, conversely, glaringly obvious to the community for thirteen years.
Dr Raj Sen (Anjul Nigam), a psychiatrist, has appeared in a couple of episodes for brief moments. Since the show strives to portray real lives of surgical interns and residents, it is as if the contribution of brown physicians in the US healthcare system is neither wanted nor appreciated, judging by the medical drama's neglect in terms of casting.
The show that launched Shonda Rimes' production company Shondaland has arguably created iconic characters who are women of colour: Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson), Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) and Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez). But as new interns emerged over the years, no South-Asian character received an equally powerful representation.
In contrast, ER, the longest-running medical drama since 1994 had Parminder Nagra in the main cast for six years playing Dr Neela Rasgotra. New Amsterdam has a more diverse pool of actors across a much smaller cast with Anupam Kher, a famous Indian actor, in a leading senior doctor role.
With each new Grey's season, viewers were let down because the number of South Asians entering the medical field has only skyrocketed in the last decade. A study from 2013 reveals that healthcare professionals of Indian origin make up twenty per cent of students and faculty at American medical schools and hospitals – a number that has only gone up in recent years. It is so integral to the functioning of the medical community that one wouldn't expect to see brown roles in only a few guest spots.
One would argue there weren't enough South Asian actors in Hollywood a decade ago to draw from, but that simply isn't the case any more. Mouzam Makkar was a lead on ABC's The Fix, a law drama. Sarayu Blue leads NBC sitcom I Feel Bad.
Diversity has been at the forefront of the Hollywood discourse in the last few years, but it shouldn't be confined to black and white. When certain minorities are excluded from the conversation, it is the same problem.
It is understandable that Shonda Rhimes, as a producer, would want to focus on her own community, since most people of colour in the show are black actors, just as Mindy Kaling, for example, focuses on Indians. Yet, for a particular profession where involvement of the brown community is ubiquitous, it feels like a slap in the face to be ignored for so many years.
It is infuriating to see more white characters such as Cormac Hayes (Richard Flood) emerge in the latest season when the only two brown regulars in the history of the show have departed. One can only hope that in the future South Asians aren't reduced to occasional nurse roles and representation does not continue to move at a snail's pace. The series needs to correct its biggest mistake since its making.
Digital Spy now has a newsletter – sign up to get it sent straight to your inbox.
Looking for more TV recommendations and discussion? Head over to our Facebook Group to see new picks every day, and chat with other readers about what they're watching right now.
You Might Also Like
Watch the latest videos from Yahoo UK