The medical illustrations of a Nigerian student, Chidiebere Ibe went viral on social media attracting 7,000 likes on Instagram and 2,000 retweets on twitter.
The drawing depicting medical conditions in black male, female and children illustrated figures is not only representing black people in medical texts but saving lives.
Ibe, a 25-year-old first-year medical student, at Kyiv Medical University, Ukraine, spotted the lack of representation of black people in medical textbooks, which only show illustrations of white bodies. Eager to change that, he learnt how to draw during the lockdown, and on November 24, 2021, posted a drawing of a Black fetus in uterus on social media calling for more diversity in medical illustration. The illustration resonated with a lot viewers, both medical professionals and lay people, many of whom had never realized that they have never seen a Black figure in medical diagrams.
Speaking on the motivation for his action, Ibe wrote on YouTube “Textbooks are essential to medical training. They walk medical trainees through conditions they will encounter during their practice. the skin is an important organ that protects us and can signal when something is wrong in our body. Yet, most medical illustrations are on the Caucasian skin. This lack of diversity has important implications for medical trainees and their future patients because many conditions and signs look different based on the patient’s skin colour.”
The Ebonyi State indigene also said in addition to the lack of health care proper care for black people, the lack understanding of how diseases can appear on Black patients can lead to mortality, child birth pains, wrong diagnosis and communication problems.
Ibe’s work addresses part of the issues of racial inequality in healthcare which go beyond artworks used in medical field. There is a long history of Black people being mistreated by the health care system, with Black people witnessing more deaths from the pandemic as a result of the flawed system. Black women also have the highest mortality rates, while Black males have lower life expectancy.
Ibe who never expected his posts to go viral, took advantage of the popularity to set up a GoFundMe page to help fund his education and to promote the need for Black representation in medical illustrations for textbooks, public health materials, and other publications. Presently, he has raised £24,723 ($32, 873) exceeding his original goal of £15, 400 ($21, 400). Currently, the chief medical illustrator and creative director of the Journal of Global Neurosurgery plans to become a pediatric neurosurgeon in the future.