Medical Inclusion Matters

This image went viral – and still is. Here’s why.

ⒸChidibere Ibe/@ebereillustrate)

This stunning image is (still) going viral, and for good reason. It shows, quite possibly for the first time, a dark-skinned Black black woman with a baby in utero. The illustration was done by Medical Student and Medical Illustrator Chidiebere Ibe (@ebereillustrate), as a part of his goal to improve representation of Black skin in medical illustration. Sometimes you don’t realize how all-encompassing exclusion is until you are presented with an image like this one. 

Many Black people are understandably overwhelmed with emotion, as they are realizing that they have never before seen themselves reflected in this way. And it feels good to be seen. 

Of course, as with anytime Black people are celebrating a win, the “not all…” crowd and whatabouters have come out in force, because they cannot handle being de-centered for a solitary second. Naysayers’ comments have ranged from “all medical images should be in grayscale,” to “all babies are born pale.” But even if it were true that all babies are born without their melanin showing (newsflash: that’s not true), this illustration is necessary. It is necessary because inclusion in the medical field matters. 

Medical inclusion matters because: 

  • Most medical illustrations are shown on white skin, but most of the world’s population has brown skin.
  • Most medical conditions are studied on cis-het white people, but many conditions present differently on Black and brown skin vs. white skin, which can affect diagnosis and treatment.
  • It is important that all doctors be trained to treat patients with a range of skin shades.
  • Black medical students are more engaged with illustrations that depict their skin color—so they are likely to learn better and become better medical professionals.
  • It is vital to de-center white skin as the default or  “the norm”.
  • It starts pushing back against centuries of medical racism, which started with slavery and continues to this day. (Google Henrietta Lacks, The Tuskegee Experiment, and Racial Health Disparities.)

We will continue the discussion about medical racism and its link with white saviorism in another post, but for now, revel in the amazingness of this image, and support Chidiebere Ibe’s work. Prints of his illustration are for sale (check out his instagram) and proceeds are going towards his medical school expenses.

**This post was first published on @nowhitesaviors**

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Unless otherwise stated, text and images ⒸLisa Hurley/@happyhappyphoenix







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