An Afro-Latino artists brings diversity to a medical illustrations in textbooks. Have you ever seen a medical artwork portraying a person of colour?

A black artist diversified medical illustrations in textbooks

Recently, a Twitter user posted a photograph of a pregnant Black lady that they’d never seen before. To introduce more variety to the drawings used in patient care, prospective Nigerian medical student and illustrator Chidiebere Ibe produced the picture.

Some argue medical drawings disproportionately represent white male bodies. A 2018 study revealed that just 5% of photos in four popular medical textbooks portray people with black complexion.

Ibe, who will start studying medicine at Kyiv Medical University in Ukraine next month, spent a year learning anatomy. He noticed a lack of diversity in the photographs he was viewing right away.

“Lack of representation made studying harder for me,” he told USA TODAY.

“I understood there was an issue that needed to be addressed throughout that procedure.”

To promote more inclusive medical literature, Ibe, 25, began posting on social media. A Black pregnant mother and foetus garnered him the most attention. The image received over 47,000 retweets and 332,000 likes.

Despite some criticism, Ibe says he’s gotten a flood of good feedback, from individuals who say the photographs made them feel respected and motivated their children to study medical.

“I was surprised,” he remarked. “I was amazed.”

Anatomy drawings have been used for thousands of years, but medical illustrations as a vocation in the US dates from the late 19th century.

The AMI formed a diversity committee in 2018 that has been pushing artists to include more variety in their work and performing school outreach to enhance diversity, according to committee head Ni-ka Ford.

Illustrations are utilised in medical teaching, patient education, pharmaceutical business promotions, and even legal situations.

Medical artwork, like the medical sector, is mostly white. Ford estimates that less than 8% of medical illustrations are individuals of race.

“There won’t be as much diversity in the content provided unless varied individuals are generating it,” she remarked.

Disparities remain even in literature about illnesses that disproportionately afflict persons of colour. A study published in the British Journal of Dermatology in 2020 revealed that papers discussing the coronavirus’ rashes virtually exclusively present clinical photographs of individuals with lighter skin.

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Ford, a medical illustrations for four years, says the lack of diversity is a “big concern” that “does influence patient health.”

It’s possible that a doctor won’t be able to appropriately identify someone with darker complexion if they haven’t been trained. “Patients may feel isolated and distrustful of their health care provider if they do not see themselves represented in these materials.”

Hillary Wilson, a 27-year-old medical illustrator from Durham, North Carolina, discovered medical illustrations while studying biology and intended to attend medical school.

Wilson says many people wonder why she uses a diverse range of skin tones in her patient education work. Without it, her pictures are lacking.

“It’s only natural to attempt to account for the diversity of individuals,” she remarked. “Why not include these others? As a Black person, I’d use my arm as a reference if I had to.”

Ibe’s illustration, Wilson believes, will help dispel the myth that white skin is “default.”

Some individuals feel like there should be a reason why someone isn’t white in an artwork, she says. “People of colour and oppressed people don’t need a cause to exist.”

With the support of community health clinics throughout the world, Ibe hopes to normalise pictures. A scholarship foundation would allow him to “give back to my roots.”

“This is the community’s project,” he remarked.