As a black doctor, Uché Blackstock, MD, isn’t just sitting on the sidelines while racial disparities exist in the healthcare industry. She has created a business to help combat these issues while equipping her industry peers for the fight.
Blackstock is the CEO and founder of Advancing Health Equity, a business that partners with healthcare organizations to advocate for diversity in the medical industry. Born to a black doctor who died of leukemia at the tender age of 47, Blackstock believes her mother lost her life due to systemic racism that exists for black people seeking medical care.
“She died at only 47 years old. My mother was my role model and the reason why I became a physician,” Blackstock explains on her company website. “Over the last ten years of clinical practice, I have witnessed first-hand the deleterious impact of health inequity and healthcare disparities on our marginalized populations and communities.”
After earning her medical degree at Harvard Medical School and working as an associate professor at the NYU School of Medicine, Blackstock is equipped to help other medical professionals better people who may look like her.
In a personal piece written for Stat, Blackstock revealed that she too experienced racism in her own profession.
“Last month, I made the difficult decision to leave my faculty position at an academic medical center after more than nine years there because of a toxic and oppressive work environment that instilled in me fear of retaliation for being vocal about racism and sexism within the institution,” she wrote in January. “..I could no longer stand the lack of mentorship, promotion denial, and work environments embedded in racism and sexism. I also realized it was imperative for me to speak truth to power and that I could have a larger impact through carving a path of my own by forming a company to equip health care organizations with the tools to support a diverse workforce and to provide equitable care to each and every patient.”
I wrote this deeply personal piece and I chose bravery over fear.
My OpEd in today’s @statnews about why I left my faculty position in academia last month and what losing Black faculty means for our students and patients.
— Uché Blackstock, MD (@dr_uche_bee) January 16, 2020
When speaking to The M Dash last year, she explained the importance of her company consulting people in the medical industry who may not understand the depth of the problems that black patients face.
“Only two percent of physicians are black women, so I’m a bit of a unicorn. Once I realized how small our numbers were, I also realized that the diversity of our workforce directly impacts our patient care,” she said. “There’s a lot of disparity and inequity in the healthcare field. There’s also a rich history of racism in medicine, especially in black communities and black populations. When I have a patient who sees that I look like her, I think we have a different connection.”
When speaking to Forbes recently, Blackstock shared some more hard truths about just how unfair black patients are treated. According to Blackstock, there are visible differences in the way black patients are treated compared to white people who seek the same medical care.
“We know the statistics. Black patients are more likely to receive subpar care compared to their white counterparts,” she said. “They are less likely to receive appropriate medical interventions.”
Despite the statistics, she shared some words of wisdom with black patients who may have to grapple with those harsh realities.
“To ask black people to mitigate both interpersonal and systemic biases is both overwhelming and unfair, however I do encourage black patients to walk into healthcare encounters with their eyes wide open, which means bringing a trusted friend or family member, be empowered to ask questions about your care and seek out community-based organizations that may be able to help support them,” she said.
For more information about Blackstock and her mission, please visit Advancing Health Equity.