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As the nation gears up on Tuesday to commemorate years since the ratification of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, Black women across Florida are flexing their electoral muscles.
Mary McLeod Bethune — educator, club woman, and stateswoman — asserted the universality of equality in and through all things. Her unique worldview informed her advocacy on behalf of Negro women and children throughout her life. Initially, she wanted to be a missionary for the Presbyterians in West Africa. Ultimately, she was rejected by the church in part due to her race, gender, and unmarried status. When she undertook to redefine her career goal, she encountered Lucy Craft Laney Like Bethune, Laney was a daughter of the South, a Presbyterian, and the child of formerly enslaved parents.
In Florida, Black women are more than twice as likely to die during childbirth as white women, a tragic reality that's part of what motivated Adrienne Hibbert to launch the online directory Black Doctors of South Florida in Doctors pay to advertise on her website, and she refers them patients. Hibbert says she, too, wanted a Black ob-gyn 15 years ago, when she gave birth to her first son at Memorial Hospital West in Pembroke Pines.
I want someone who understands the foods that I eat. I want someone who understands my upbringing and things that my grandma used to tell me. He knows finding a physician who meets Black women in florida profile isn't easy. When Adams did his residency at Emory University in Atlanta fromresidents were trained that if a Black woman came in with pain in her pelvis, "the assumption was that it was likely to be a sexually transmitted disease, something we refer to as PID — pelvic inflammatory disease. The typical causes there, gonorrhea and or chlamydia.
If the same symptoms were presented by a white young woman, the assumption would be not an STD, but endometriosis.
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Recently, some medical schools in South Florida have begun teaching future doctors not to think that way. Sarah Wood, the senior associate dean for medical education at the Charles E. Wood said physicians must ask Black patients far more than "Where do you live?
Do you feel safe communicating your needs? You know, different questions that we maybe never historically asked, but we need to start asking," Wood explained.
Further south from Wood's campus, at the University of Miami, Dr. Roderick King is part of a similar effort that gained momentum after the murder of George Floyd on May 25, He's the senior associate dean of diversity, inclusion and community engagement and director of the M. They're now integrating the "understanding around racial bias, implicit bias, issues around social justice, working with Black women in florida populations, and the idea that it would not be just a one course that you do," King said.
Within each year there will be elements of this that will be integrated, whether they're doing basic sciences, whether they're learning how to take care of patients and do a physical exam, or whether you're doing subspecialty training. Adams, Jackson North's chief of staff, also reminds physicians and future providers of care that "you need to have the heart of a physician, and that means you need to be compassionate," he said.
The Golden Rule says do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
So that heart of a doctor needs to be that kind of heart where you are taking care of folks the way you would want to be treated or want your family treated. Another important part of that change is training more Black doctors. Being able to be that comfortable with your patient, I think it's important when building a long-term relationship with them," Wilson said.
A woman’s heart
She says growing up in a Nigerian-American family, her relatives expected her to pursue one of a few careers — and that included medicine. But this program, aside from the encouragement of her family, helped her go from undergrad at FAMU straight through to medical school at the Charles E.
I enjoy helping people, especially in health care, and then you realize there's such a disparity, at least for me. I didn't have a Black doctor growing up," she said.
Even though I'm this 'unicorn' in medicine, it's possible to be successful, it's possible to get into medical school. It's possible to be someone's doctor.
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