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iFOTC: Art and Black Health

In Front of the Camera - Commentary and Opinion

With hundreds of thousands of years of African arts and hundreds of thousands of years of African sciences, medicines, and health approaches, art is a method for Black people to reach each other and help each other. Therefore, Black people must require medical and health professionals to use art as one form of reaching and helping Black people.

I walked into a classroom with medical students. Some students in the classroom are interested in being neurologists, some students are interested in being neurosurgeons.

I introduced myself and asked which students were previously taught medical and health courses with textbooks, articles, and knowledge primarily based in Indigenous medicines and health, African medicines and health, and Asian medicines and health. Silence.

I did an exercise of an image with graffiti artists drawing the human brain on a city sidewalk. I explained why the human body is not understood and not discussed by many people.

I explained why people, including visual learners, further understand and discuss when there are visual explanations and visual illustrations of human bodies, health conditions, and diseases.

I asked students to draw their own image of the human brain. This can include what is considered “normal,” brain transactions with the body, and brain conditions.

Then I asked students how they would use their artistic image to do community presentations and to help people during within-facility appointments.

As a social scientist specializing in medical and health equity and I have a brain condition, I have experiences as both the presenter and the patient.

Both experiences interlock with being a Black woman whose pain is often silenced and whose opinion is often labeled “angry.”

Sometimes, I reintroduce myself as “social scientist specializing in health equity” when it is apparent that medical and health professionals (of various racial and ethnic identities) are accustomed to devaluing Black people.

I reintroduce myself to help save my life and help the lives of Black people in need of true patient advocates that are often difficult to access in medical and health facilities.

Therefore, it is important for medical and health students and professionals to understand and implement artistic knowledge and artistic medical and health services.

Artistic medical and health teaching, training, and actions are beyond reading and regurgitating medical and health books, articles, and telling patients to stare at paperwork or at computer screens with terminology, diagrams, and medical imaging.

Artistic discussions, communications, and explanations are beneficial for communities, families, patients, and medical and health professionals.

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