(While most fetuses are red in color – newborns come out dark pink or red and only gradually develop the skin tone they will have for life – the medical illustration is intended to represent patients unaccustomed to seeing their skin tones in such images .)
“The whole purpose was to continue speaking about what I’m passionate about — public health justice — and also to show the beauty of black people,” he told the publication. “Not only do we need more representations like this — we need more people who are willing to create representations like this.”
CNN reached out to Ibe for comment, but he didn’t elaborate further.
Ni-Ka Ford, chair of the Association of Medical Illustrators’ diversity committee, said the organization is grateful for Ibe’s illustration.
“Besides the importance of depicting black and brown bodies in medical illustration, his illustration also serves to combat another major flaw in the medical system, which is the amazingly disproportionate maternal mortality rate of black women in this country,” she wrote in an email to CNN.
What is medical illustration
“Historical [medical illustrations] have always shown white, muscular male figures and continue to do so today,” said Ford. “The bias towards one body type in medical illustration marginalizes all others.”
Why diversity is important in the industry
Diversity in medical illustration (or lack thereof) is important as these images can impact medical students, practitioners and patients.
“Without fair representation and the continued use of white-only patients depicted in medical textbooks, medical professionals are limited in their ability to accurately diagnose and treat people who do not fit this mold,” said Ford. “Healthcare professionals, then, because of this knowledge gap, can be inclined to rely on racial stereotypes and generalizations about how symptoms present differently in darker skin tones, leading to poorer care.”
“For decades, peer-reviewed scientific publications have used photographs and images that understate the diverse demographics of patients affected by certain diseases,” the researchers wrote. “This is particularly noticeable in the lack of diversity in medical illustration. These inequalities in medical reporting can have lasting downstream impacts on healthcare accessibility and delivery.”
Ford said those who are not often depicted in medical illustrations “can feel left out and unappreciated in a healthcare setting, leading to distrust and isolation when receiving care.” She also said medical professionals may have less empathy for Feel unrepresented groups – people who are black, brown, women, transgender or non-binary – which can affect the quality of care they receive.
Despite the continuing need for medical illustrations to represent the full spectrum of human diversity, the field is beginning to change, medical illustrator Hillary Wilson told CNN.
“The reality is there are so many different types of people,” she said. “For me, no resource is complete without at least considering it and doing my best to accommodate the fact that there are so many different types of people.”
While Ibe’s image of the black fetus seemed to mark a departure from the norm, Wilson said she hopes seeing black skin tones in medical illustrations becomes routine in the future.
“At some point, I hope it can just become one of those things that’s expected,” she added.
https://www.cnn.com/2021/12/09/health/black-fetus-medical-illustration-diversity-wellness-cec/index.html A viral image of a black fetus underscores the need for diversity in medical illustration