Black History: Special Delivery!!
Malone Mukwende was born in Zimbabwe. His interest in science and medicine developed at an early age. After entering medical school at St. George’s University of London, 3 years ago, Mukwende observed that representations of black and brown patients were largely left out of study materials and textbooks. This concerned because he and his classmates were only being taught how to diagnose conditions on white patients. Mukwende noted, “There was a lack of signs and symptoms on Black and Brown skin… and I didn’t understand why we weren’t getting taught the full spectrum of people. I’d ask people for answers and I couldn’t get the answer… I decided I needed to do something to challenge this issue myself.”
And that’s just what he did! Mukwende with the help of two instructors at St. George’s created the Mind Gap Handbook. Their work was supported by a student partnership grant from St. George’s. The handbook is comprised of images and descriptions of clinical signs and symptoms applicable to Black and Brown skin.
Mukwende shared, “We looked for pictures and clinical descriptors that we could use to define them, understanding that there needs to be a difference in the communication aspect of the descriptors that we use. It was very hard and intense because… there are a lack of images of Black and Brown skin across the internet. Thankfully, we were able to source them and here we are today,”
First published in August 2020, Mind Gap is having a global impact reaching 102 countries. It is also now considered recommended reading at many universities and hospitals in the United Kingdom. Mukwende has now launched a website called Black & Brown Skin which provides a way for individuals to submit images and personal stories anonymously to help with expanding the number of images available for use in Mind Gap. Both the website and handbook focus on dermatology and other medical conditions.
“The aim of the website is to allow people who have been silenced for many years to be able to add and provide resources, which will be collated in one place to a bank of pictures. We also have a feature if they are not able to share their photo, they can share their stories,” said Mukwende.
Mukwende’s work is helping to expand the training and knowledge of physicians and it is also help to elevate the voices and experiences of black and brown patients.