Med Student Pioneers Research To Improve Interpretation Of X-rays For Black Patients With Protective Hairstyles

by Gee NY

Angela Udongwo, a third-year medical student at Temple University in Philadelphia, is spearheading a groundbreaking research project aimed at enhancing the interpretation of X-rays for Black patients with braids, twists, and locs.

The initiative, driven by Udongwo’s commitment to improving healthcare outcomes for individuals who look like her, addresses the notable lack of representation, with only 3% of radiologists being Black, according to the American Medical Association.

According to a report by The Philadelphia Inquirer, the opportunity for Udongwo arose when her research mentor and Temple radiologist, Hillel Maresky, expressed the need to establish a knowledge base for distinguishing protective hairstyles in radiological scans.

Recognizing the potential impact on patient care, Udongwo not only educates fellow physicians at Temple’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine on interpreting Black hairstyles but also advocates for respectful and accurate language in discussing them.

In the medical field, certain artifacts from common Black hairstyles can obscure images in scans, potentially leading to misinterpretations and unnecessary follow-up tests. Udongwo’s research project seeks to fill this gap in the medical literature and reduce the likelihood of errors in patient diagnosis.

The team plans to leverage their findings to create educational materials aimed at instructing radiologists, particularly those who are not familiar with Black hairstyles, on their significance in medical imaging.

“I’m surrounded by people who really like to learn and want to become better physicians,” says Udongwo, expressing her enthusiasm for the potential impact of the project.

The endeavor not only addresses a critical aspect of healthcare disparities but also underscores the power of diversity in patient populations as a valuable resource for medical research and education.

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