Handbook

Medical student creates manual to educate doctors on how medical conditions appear on darker skin


Racism in health care is an endemic problem. Not only do doctors not specifically believe in black pain to the extent that they believe in white pain, they are not trained in the number of ailments and diseases that appear on darker skin.

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This is where Malone Mukwende comes in. Malone is a medical student at St. George’s University in London. He noticed that all of his training focused on the signs and symptoms of the disease on white skin only. So he decided to do something. He created Watch out for the gap, a manual specially designed to teach medical students and physicians about the clinical signs of black and brown skin.

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Watch out for the gap shows side-by-side representations of how certain conditions appear on paler skin and darker skin. This is something sorely lacking in medical training materials until now.

In an interview with Duncan McCue on Radio-Canada, Malone said: “A manual like this is needed because at present in medical education in the UK, and also around the world, we are often not taught how to identify the signs and symptoms of ‘darker skin tone. So this textbook acts almost like that bridge to fill that gap in our education right now. “

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He said the gap in the quality of healthcare between people with lighter and darker skin became apparent to him long before he entered medical school. “I had heard cases and stories from members of my own community and the black community about being misdiagnosed or not taken seriously by medical professionals or just bad treatments, really, ”he said.

When he got to medical school, it became clear that not only are black people and other people of color discriminated against because of thinly veiled racism, but there was a level of racism as well. more institutional at work. Doctors are simply not trained to identify health issues with darker skin.

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Great reflection reports that Malone worked with Senior Lecturer in Diversity and Medical Education, Margot Turner, and Senior Lecturer in Clinical Skills, Peter Tamony, to create the manual. In addition to the side-by-side images, Watch out for the gap includes “suggestions for appropriate language and phrases” for healthcare professionals of all kinds to use with their patients.

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In conversation with the British medical journal, Malone said upon arriving at medical school, he noticed that students often learned to look for symptoms, like rashes, in a way he knew they wouldn’t appear on his own. skin.

He said: “The booklet addresses many issues that were further exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as asking families if potential COVID patients are ‘pale’ or if their lips ‘have turned blue’. These are not useful descriptors for a black patient and therefore their care is compromised on first contact. ”

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He added: “It is essential that we begin to educate others so that they are aware of these differences and the power of the clinical language we are currently using.”

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Malone says making this guide available to doctors “will allow some people to live longer, mainly because they can be diagnosed correctly in the first place.” He says it will also help increase trust between patients of color and the healthcare professionals they meet.

Watch out for the gap is not currently being distributed, but St. George’s University is in discussions with potential publishers. It is high time that something like this manual became standard training for physicians and other health care professionals.