In a recent ABC interview, Dr. Uché Blackstock, a Harvard-educated entrepreneur who is the founder and CEO of Advancing Health Equity, explained why her research was so important in her new book, “Legacy: A Black Physician Reckoning with Racism in Medicine,” a memoir that looks into the role her upbringing played in her career and why it has made her an advocate for social justice in healthcare.
“I grew up thinking that most physicians were Black women. I had my mother who returned to the community that she grew up in, in central Brooklyn, to take care of her neighbors and family,” she said. “And then I also had, other Black women physicians. My pediatrician was a Black woman. So I actually grew up thinking that most physicians were Black women. And then I entered college and I was pre-med, and I saw the statistics and said, ‘Wow, we actually are the unicorns.’ This is actually a rarity.”
According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, Black women have the highest maternal mortality rate in the United States. These numbers are a large reason why Dr. Blackstock decided to research the history of Black patients who seek treatment in the nation.
“We were taught both implicitly and explicitly in medical school that there are differences in kidney function, for example, between Black patients and non-Black patients because of myths that Black people had higher muscle mass and that correlated with kidney function,” she said. “And essentially what that has led to is Black patients not receiving the specialized kidney care that they needed, not being placed on the kidney transplant lists. So those beliefs or those myths about Black people being biologically different than other people have actually led to us being harmed, and worsening health outcomes.”
“We shouldn’t just leave it up to Black physicians to do that,” she advised. “Everyone should be able to care for patients in the most equitable way. So looking at our curriculum and seeing how medical students are taught, but also holding hospitals and health care institutions accountable.”