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Viral images of black fetuses highlight the need for a variety of medical illustrations. CNN


At first glance, the image looks like a standard drawing and can be easily found on the pages of medical textbooks and on the walls of clinics.

But what stands out Illustration of a fetus in the womb What has recently attracted the attention of the Internet is the simple yet important details. The skin color is dark.

Created by Nigerian medical student and illustrator Chidivere Ive, this image has struck a chord with countless people on social media. Said They had never seen a black fetus or a black pregnant woman previously depicted. Attention was also paid to the larger problem at hand. Lack of diversity in medical illustrations..

(Most fetuses are red, but newborns turn dark pink or red and gradually develop lifelong skin color-medical illustrations are accustomed to seeing skin color in such images. It is intended to represent no patient.)

Ibe said in an interview HuffPost UK He did not expect to receive such an overwhelming reaction-an illustration of his fetus Many such images He was created as a medical illustrator, most of whom paints black skin tones. But it emphasized the importance of the mission he has been working on for a long time.

“The whole purpose was also to show my passion, to keep talking about fairness in medicine, and to show the beauty of black people,” he told the publication. “We not only need more expressions like this, but we also need more people who are willing to create such expressions.”

CNN asked Ibe for comment, but he didn’t elaborate on this topic any further.

Ni-Ka Ford, chairman of the Diversity Committee of the Medical Illustrators Association, said the organization was grateful for Ibe’s illustrations.

“In addition to the importance of representing a black and brown body in medical illustrations, his illustrations are another major part of the medical system, which is the astonishingly disproportionate maternal mortality rate of black women in this country. It also helps fight flaws, “she wrote in an email to CNN.

Medical illustrations have been used for thousands of years to record and convey procedures, pathology, and other aspects of medical knowledge. From Ancient Egyptians to Leonardo da Vinci.. You can combine science and art to transform complex information into vision and convey concepts to students, practitioners, and the general public. These images are used not only in textbooks and scientific magazines, but also in movies, presentations and other media.

According to the world, there are less than 2,000 trained medical illustrators in the world. Medical Illustrators Association.. In North America, there are only a handful of accredited medical illustration programs, which tend to be expensive, accept few students, and the field has historically been dominated by white and male people. In other words, the body depicted was usually the case. , that too.

“Historically [medical illustrations] We’ve always featured white talented men, and even today, “Ford said. “The prejudice against one body shape in medical illustrations downplays everyone else.”

Studies support this lack of diversity. Researchers at the University of Wollongong, Australia, 2014 survey Of the more than 6,000 gender-identifiable images in 17 anatomy textbooks published between 2008 and 2013, only 36% of the bodies depicted were women. The majority were white. Approximately 3% of the analyzed images showed disabled people, but only 2% were characterized by older people.

Diversity (or lack thereof) in the field of medical illustration is important because these images can affect medical trainees, practitioners, and patients.

“Fairly portraying only the white, competent physical patients depicted in medical textbooks, and without permanent use, medical professionals accurately diagnose and treat those who do not fit the pattern. There is a limit to what we can do, “Ford said. “Healthcare professionals tend to rely on racial stereotypes and generalizations due to this knowledge gap on how symptoms appear differently in darker skin tones, and care is poor. It will be enough. ”

Research by researchers at the same University of Wollogon Published in 2018 We found that gender-biased images from anatomy textbooks increased the score of medical students in potential bias tests.Another study published in Journal Plastics and Reconstructive Surgery-Global Open In 2019, it was found that Caucasian patients were overestimated in images from the Plastic Surgery Journal. The authors suggest that this may affect the care received by non-white patients.

“For decades, peer-reviewed scholarly publications have used photographs and images that improperly portray the diversity of demographics of patients affected by a particular disease,” the researchers write. increase. “This is especially noticeable due to the lack of diversity in medical illustrations. These inequality in medical reporting can have a lasting downstream impact on medical accessibility and delivery.”

Ford said that those who are not often depicted in medical illustrations “feel left behind and unrecognized in the medical setting, which can lead to distrust and isolation when receiving care.” She also said that medical professionals are less likely to sympathize with unrepresented groups (black, brown, women, transgender, or non-binary people) and can reduce the quality of care they receive. Said there was sex.

Inequality in health care Well documentedIn studies showing that black patients are more likely Experience bias When Misdiagnosed Under certain conditions.According to a survey, a significant proportion of white medical students and residents Have a false idea about biological differences Between blacks and whites, it can lead to racial prejudice in the way their pain is perceived and treated.

Despite the lasting need for medical illustrations to portray the full range of human diversity, this area is beginning to see change, medical illustrator Hillary Wilson told CNN.

Wilson, that An illustration Depicting blacks with infographics about eczema, sunburn damage, alopecia, and other conditions, he said both patients and practitioners can benefit from seeing the variety represented in medical illustrations. .. And through her work, she is trying to humanize people of color and other marginalized groups by doing just that.

“In reality, there are so many different types of people,” she said. “For me, at least without considering it, the resources are not perfect unless I do my best to explain the fact that there are so many different types of people.”

While the image of Ibe’s black fetus seemed to indicate a deviation from the norm, Wilson said he hopes to see black skin color in medical illustrations on a daily basis in the future. rice field.

“In the end, I hope it will be one of the expectations,” she added.

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