The picture he painted of the black-skinned fetus is all over the world. With medical maps of black bodies, the young medical student wants to highlight the lack of representation of black people in the medical community. Chiedebere Ibe, 25, from Nigeria, answered questions from BFMTV.com.
“I’ve never seen anything like that!” Since the beginning of December, the medical painting of the fetus being black in the mother’s womb has spread around the world. This chart was made by Chiedebere Ibe, a young Nigerian medical student interested in giving more space to blackheads in the medical field.
Since this summer, the young man has been drawing anatomical maps representing black people, which should take into account the lack of diversity in scientific representations. With this This post on Instagram, Which has collected nearly 92,000 “likes” and now has more than 123,000 subscribers.
“From the first days, I realized that all medical charts show people with white skin,” the 25-year-old Nigerian told BFMTV.com, who was even more surprised when he remembered the first few days he opened his textbooks.
“I thought something was wrong.”
“It really caught my attention (…), I told myself there was a problem,” recalled this first-year medical student who wants to become a pediatric neurosurgeon. “This may seem surprising, but even in Africa, all maps show whites.”
Since July 2020, the frustrated young man has decided to deal with the problem directly and fix it himself. This art enthusiast began to draw actively using imprisonment. “I challenged myself to learn to draw online. I went to the internet and started learning through tutorials, old computer, old mouse (…) and little by little, I got better”.
Eczema, heat rash, measles, seborrheic dermatitis … So the young man started posting on his Instagram account explaining the symptoms of many diseases on black skin, especially the skin pathology manifested in different ways. Or Asian leather. Paintings he now publishes The Journal of Global Neosurgery.
Lack of representation that distorts the diagnosis
Seedebere Ibe laments the lack of diversity in the scientific literature. “It causes a lot of problems,” he underlines, “because doctors or physicists do not always know how to treat black people with their specifics, such as the peculiarities of their skin.”
“This can lead to misdiagnosis,” he continues. “This is a big challenge because health comes first. If you take America, there are a lot of differences in the way black and white people are treated. Death is not the same,” says the student.
In recent years, several studies have confirmed the lack of this diversity. An Australian study conducted in 2014 by researchers at the University of Wollongong, for example, found that out of 6,000 science charts in textbooks, only 36% of the bodies mentioned were women, most of them white. Only 3% of bodies showed people with disabilities.
Another study, dated 2019, was published in the journal Science Plastic and reconstruction surgery, Caucasian patients are over-represented in plastic surgery journals, which may affect the care that non-white patients receive. Finally, it should be noted that, according to the Medical Illustrators Association, there are only about 2,000 trained medical illustrators worldwide.
Today, many scientific journals and other specialized publications have expressed interest in working with Chiedebere Ibe to accommodate the greater diversity of resources they provide. “Things have to change, but it’s just beginning and it’s nice to see people ready to embrace these improvements,” said the Nigerian student. “Integration and equality must become a reality.”