His image of a black-skinned fetus is worldwide. Using medical diagrams of black bodies, the young medical student wants to highlight the lack of representation of blacks in the medical community. Chidebere Ibe, a 25-year-old Nigerian, answered questions from BFMTV.com.
“I have never seen anything like it!” Since early December, medical drawings of black fetuses in the mother’s womb have been circulating around the world. The film was produced by Chidebere Ibe, a Nigerian medical student who is eager to give more space to black bodies in the medical field.
Since this summer, the young man has been drawing anatomical diagrams representing blacks to draw attention to the lack of diversity in scientific representations. With this This post on Instagram, Which has collected about 92,000 “likes” and now has over 123,000 subscribers.
“From the first days, I realized that all medical imaging shows people with white skin,” the 25-year-old Nigerian told BFMTV.com, still wondering about the first few days when his textbooks opened.
“I thought there was a problem”
“It really caught my attention (…), I told myself there was a problem,” recalls this first-year medical student who wants to become a pediatric neurosurgeon. “It may seem strange, but even in Africa, all the diagrams show whites.”
From July 2020, the frustrated young man decides to solve this problem directly and solve it himself. This art lover later began to paint with intensity. “I challenged myself to learn to draw online. I went to the internet and started learning through tutorials, and gradually improved with the old computer and the old mouse (…).”
Eczema, heat rash, measles, seborrheic dermatitis … so the young man began to portray and publish the symptoms of various diseases of black skin on his Instagram account, especially dermatological pathologies appearing in very different ways. Or Asian skin. Drawings he is now publishing The Journal of Global Neosurgery.
Lack of representation that distorts the diagnosis
Cheedebere Ibe condemns the lack of diversity in the scientific literature. “It’s causing a lot of problems,” he underscores, “because doctors or physicists do not always know how to treat blacks using their own characteristics, such as their skin characteristics.”
“It may lead to a misdiagnosis,” he continued. “This is a big challenge because health is the number one priority. If you take the United States as an example, there are a lot of inequalities in the way black and white people are treated. The mortality rate is not the same,” says the student.
In recent years, several studies have confirmed the absence of this diversity. An Australian study conducted in 2014 by researchers at the University of Wollongong shows that out of 6,000 scientific illustrations in textbooks, only 36% of the bodies represented are female, most of them white. Only 3% of the bodies were shown to be disabled.
Another study was published in the 2019 journal Scientific Plastic and reconstructive surgery, Caucasian patients have been found to be over-represented in plastic surgery journals, which could affect the care they receive for non-white patients. Finally, it should be noted that according to the Association of Medical Illustrators, there are only about 2,000 trained medical illustrators worldwide.
Today, several science journals and other specialized publishing houses have expressed their desire to work with Chideber iBay to make room for more diversity in the resources they offer. “Things need to change, but it’s just beginning, and it’s nice to see people ready to embrace these advances,” said the Nigerian student. “Unification and equality must become a reality.”
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