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Why We Need to Decolonise the Medical Curriculum

Wedzera

The rise of the COVID-19 pandemic across the world has seemingly highlighted institutional failings of healthcare organisations to provide equal care to all people. Reports and articles have been published displaying the disproportionate rates of COVID-19 deaths in Black communities. According to the Office of National Statistics data, black men are 4.2 times more likely and black women are 4.3 times more likely to die of a death related to COVID-19 than their white counterparts.

Many theories have been suggested as to why this is the case, but most of these have ignored the role that institutional racism plays within the healthcare system. Racism plays a role in every facet of society and there are numerous health and medical inequalities that have existed long before it was brought to more mainstream public attention via the coronavirus pandemic. For example the disproportionate rates of Black people dying during childbirth and the disproportionate rates of deaths of Black people in psychiatric units. 

When we consider the history of Western medicine and the influence that scientific racism has had it is no surprise that Black people living in the Western world do not share the same medical experiences as their white counterparts. 

A recent survey found that as many as 40% of medical students believed that Black people have thicker skin and less sensitive nerve endings than white people. This idea has been directly influenced by the legacy of scientific racism and eugenics that was used to justify enslaving African people during the transatlantic slave trade. During this time, medical experimentation on enslaved African’s was commonplace, it was believed that due to their thicker skin enslaved Africans did not feel pain and therefore anaesthesia was not used. This legacy of eugenic thought is still perpetuated by medical professionals to this day, many of them unaware of these historical events. 

As talk about racism across society has began to rise following the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests the world over, many have started having conversations about how education needs to be utilised in the fight against white supremacy. There are great organisations such as Boukman Academy, a Black centred school who provide a thorough curriculum of psychology, politics, history and sociology that can be implemented in educational institutions.

As talk about racism across society has begun to rise following the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests the world over, many have started having conversations about how education needs to be utilised in the fight against white supremacy. There are great organisations such as Boukman Academy, a Black centred school who provide a thorough curriculum of psychology, politics, history and sociology that can be implemented in educational institutions.

 As well as diversifying the curriculum in school and university settings, I believe that it is key to begin a process of decolonising healthcare resources for students and existing healthcare professionals. To support this I have created a website with numerous books relating to science and healthcare, many of these consider how race and racism impact our health as well as the medical care that we receive. 

As a future doctor and healthcare activist I hope to continue my research into the impact that racism has on our health as well the healthcare that we provide. Medicine does not exist outside of the wider systemically racist society. It is key that as healthcare professionals we know about the racist history that has created the medicine that we are delivering today.

– Georgia Mae


  • Name: Georgia Mae
  • Age: 24
  • Location: Birmingham, UK
  • Industry: Healthcare
  • Heritage: Kittitian British
  • What does being Black mean to you? Being Black means being my true self, it means family, it means learning my history, it means waking up every day aware of the oppression that my people have faced and face to this day the world over. It is having an awareness of my privileges as a cisgender, light-skinned Black woman as well as embracing all of me, authentically.

8 comments

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