Last December, an illustration of a Black woman and her brown fetus went viral on social media. On Twitter, the image was liked over 8,000 times and retweeted over 2,500 times. On Instagram, the image was liked over 100,000 times.
Many people commented on his social media accounts that it was the first time they saw Black people illustrated for medical use. Including myself, because it was something I failed to realize was even an issue.
The Nigerian medical student, Chidiebere Ibe, noticed a theme when he opened his medical textbooks: most of the illustrations were of people with white skin. So he took it upon himself to create illustrations that represent Black people. He created Black depictions of conditions such as vitiligo, cold sores, chest infection and spinal injuries, according to CNN.
Since then, Ibe, who is the creative director at the Association of Future African Neurosurgeons, has been invited to have his illustrations published in the second edition of a handbook that is meant to show medical conditions that appear on Black skin.
“Mind the Gap: A clinical handbook of signs and symptoms in Black and Brown Skin,” was first published in 2020. Co-author Malone Mukwende, a medical student in London, wrote over email that “Chidiebere’s work ... unearths some of the biases that exist in medicine in plain sight that we may not be aware of. Representation in healthcare is imperative to ensure that we do not allow implicit biases to cultivate in our heads.”
Ibe is currently studying medicine in Ukraine. He thinks that the low number of illustrations depicting skin conditions on Black people makes it more difficult for medical students to diagnose them. Malone Mukwende, a Zimbabwe-born medical student in London and co-author of the handbook, thinks that they can create a “blueprint” of what a diverse medical textbook looks like, according to CNN.
Mukwende, wrote the first edition of Mind the Gap: A Handbook of Clinical Signs in Black and Brown Skin, in 2020 to illustrate how medical conditions appear on darker skin.
More from CNN:
Despite making up an eighth of the world’s population, Africa accounted for less than 1% of global research output between 2012 and 2016. Even in Nigeria, White skin images dominate the medical literature, says Ibe. His goal is to help remedy that by setting up a network of African medical illustrators.
Ibe plans to become a pediatric neurosurgeon and is also working on a textbook on birth defects in children, which will be illustrated with Black skin images.
Representation is important, across all fields, so the more people of color we have illustrating medical conditions on Black people, the better we can combat the disparity in Black representation.