Black OB-GYN Medical Residents at Chicago Hospital Say Patients of Color Feel Safer and Seen

When Dr. Constants Adams walks into a patient’s room, she can sometimes sense the relief. She’s watched as eyes above masks show surprise, even pride, when patients of color are amazed and comforted seeing a provider who looks like them.

At Northwestern Medicine Prentice Women’s Hospital, for the first time anyone at the facility can remember, a team of OB-GYN medical residents is all Black and all female. The five doctors work together daily, treating patients and learning in virtual programs as they work toward becoming OB-GYNs.

It’s an important moment in a field where Black women are six times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes and medicine has been undergoing a reckoning — working to earn trust in communities of color. In Illinois, state legislators are targeting maternal health disparities after calling it a “very dire situation”; also the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed disparities, including among pregnant women. A recent study from the Illinois Department of Public Health revealed that Black women have some of the highest cases of maternal deaths nationwide, as well as in Illinois.

Having providers of color can build trust and help patients feel someone understands some of their life experiences, and is listening. Patients who trust their provider may be more comfortable following their treatment plans and medications.

“I never in life would have thought we’d have an entire Black labor and delivery team here,” Adams said. “It’s a combination of feeling really proud but also feeling a huge amount of responsibility.”

On a recent Friday morning, the group sat in a conference room at Prentice, listening to virtual classes discussing various case studies.

Also in the room was Dr. Tacoma McKnight, the second Black OB-GYN female resident at Northwestern and the first Black female faculty attending physician. Her residency experience looked very different from the Friday morning room of laughing, learning Black women. The only Black woman in her program, she recalled asking others who had gone before her about what the situation would be like.

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SOURCE: Chicago Tribune, Alison Bowen

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