Written By: Chiara Atoyebi
“The Future of Medicine” Digital Art by Chiara Atoyebi
Growing up with a mother who was a nurse practitioner had its perks. Mom always had a pulse on the community and she was intentional about taking me to women physicians, and women nurse practitioners, and exposing me to advocates on the frontlines of healthcare. An experience that still stands out for me today is receiving my first annual gynecological exam at a women’s clinic. As a woman, you know how these exams can be invasive. However, I found that the care I received at various women’s clinics felt attentive, with warm speculums, and a moderately comfortable setting. Throughout my adolescence I believed positive medical experiences like the ones I’d always had would continue, but later found out otherwise. As an adult patient and expectant mother, I often experienced the medical world was hostile instead of helpful.
To date, there are approximately 3600 women’s health centers in the United States that service nearly 15 million people. The demographic for these types of clinics are typically younger and with fewer complex health problems which makes it a great setting for receiving more focused attention. Statistically speaking, women generally report higher customer service satisfaction stemming from, “ being taken seriously by the doctor, having enough time with the doctor, and feeling that the doctor was not talking down to the patient,” according to an NIH study focused on one size fits all women’s health care. I’d also add that all of these facilities were independent of Planned Parenthood, which is its own entity.
While women’s clinics are a win for women overall, and arguably a necessity, there still remains a shortage of Black and Hispanic physicians. Less than 6% of physicians in America are of African descent and Hispanic physicians come in at about 8%. We now know that historical practices of systemic racism and ongoing implicit biases found in medical school admissions and towards students of color, hospital hiring practices, and even the methodology in which care is delivered to people of color have impacted these low statistics. In 2008, the American Medical Association publicly apologized for discriminatory acts against physicians of Black and African descent, which was clearly a move in the right direction. These acts of good faith have moved the needle forward to some degree and medical schools saw an uptick in Black and Hispanic enrollment in 2021, and with active recruitment, stands to be even higher.
Hopefully, some of these students-turned-physicians of color will one day work in health centers worldwide and provide culturally sensitive health education to populations that need them. In June of 2022, the Biden Administration released its plan for Maternal Health Blueprint for Women, Mothers, and Families.
Some key points include:
- Increasing access to and coverage of comprehensive high-quality maternal health services, including behavioral health services.
- Ensuring women giving birth are heard and are decision-makers in accountable systems of care.
- Advancing data collection, standardization, harmonization, transparency, and research
- Expanding and diversifying the perinatal workforce.
- Strengthening economic and social supports for people before, during, and after pregnancy.
Additionally, with all of these points and initiatives, it’s still imperative that Americans actively work as a culture to normalize the nuances and differences of a pluralist society. In doing so, we understand that different is different—not inherently wrong.
“Susie Little, Hoopa Medicine Woman” Photograph Courtesy of Getty’s Open Content Program.
Less than 6% of physicians in America are of African descent and Hispanic physicians come in at about 8%.Study from NIH
There is still a fair amount of the American population as a whole that uses traditional healing or alternative healing for their healthcare. Additionally, Black women have formed several maternal health care databases to assist patients looking to have a culturally informed experience. Organizations such as Sister Midwife Productions and MamaGlow provide resources and information centered on the Black Maternal experience. Additionally, The Hispanic Health Council’s Comadrona program serves the Hispanic population with wellness education for mothers and babies while addressing healthcare deficits and creating pathways to sustained wellness for families throughout the lifespan of the child.
A Marriage of Traditional and Modern Medicines
Seventy-six percent of Mexican-Americans still frequent traditional healers. Some are driven to these practictioners by financial necessity and others because of their belief systems. In the book, “Medicine Women, Curanderas, and Women Doctors,” readers get an exciting look into the world of folk healers and medicine. In this collection, women healers from American Indian, Hispanic, and mainstream cultures describe their experiences as caregivers in modern medicine’s male-dominated world.
The book features near-unadulterated interviews with medicine women from Navajo, Apache, and Cherokee tribes, along with three Curanderas of Hispanic origin and four female doctors to tell the story of folk medicine, its philosophies, and its benefits. The stories frequently note how Western medical practices sometimes fail to provide the personal touch required for a therapeutic bond between the physician and the patient. The general consesus regarding the healing practices found in “Medicine Women, Curanderas, and Women Doctors,” is actually trending. Today, physicians are actively adopting a compassionate and empathetic approach to patient centered care which can prove to be more beneficial than relying solely on contemporary medication and technology. The new paradigm in health care should reflect the diverse nature of our society and marry both traditional medicine with modern systems, while creating the healthcare of the future that operates from an informed foundation.
Women’s Health Resources
If you would like to find a low-income women’s health center, you can visit www.healthcare.gov for a comprehensive list of services in your area.
Black Women’s Health Imperative is the first of its kind non-profit dedicated to achieving health equity for Black women and girls in America. You can learn more about BWHI here.Read more: Bridging The Health Care Gap: Women Centered Clinics, Traditional Healthcare, and a New Medical Paradigm With A Diverse Foundation Read more: Bridging The Health Care Gap: Women Centered Clinics, Traditional Healthcare, and a New Medical Paradigm With A Diverse Foundation Read more: Bridging The Health Care Gap: Women Centered Clinics, Traditional Healthcare, and a New Medical Paradigm With A Diverse Foundation