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Student’s medical illustrations of a Black unborn baby go viral

Chidiebere Ibe

Chidiebere Ibe/CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikipedia | ebereillustrate/Instagram

Sarah Robsdottir - published on 01/16/22

In the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr., 25-year-old Chidiebere Ibe has a dream, too …

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Over the holidays, the Nigerian-born self-taught medical illustrator Chidiebere Ibe turned a lot of heads by sharing his detailed anatomy drawings depicting Black subjects on social media. His powerful illustration of a Black pregnant woman and her unborn baby was the first to go viral in late November, catching the praise of the medical community, the media, and the public (Ibe has over 142K followers on Instagram; and before his original tweet was taken down, it was shared over 47K times and received over 332 likes, reports nbcnews.com ).

“I had no idea how much I needed to see this until I saw it!” CBS newscasters Gayle King and Nate Burleson echoed the sentiment of their long medically underrepresented community on their morning talk show. 

This problem of medical textbooks neglecting minorities is one Ibe aims to solve, and for many important reasons. Not only do brilliantly rendered illustrations properly represent a historically marginalized community, but a lack of diversity in medical textbooks has led to less awareness as to how certain types of illnesses, such as seborrheic dermatitis (heat rash), present in Black patients.  

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A post shared by Chidiebere Ibe (@ebereillustrate)

Dr. Kameelah Phillips, Obgyn, touched on the importance of Ibe’s work in her comment on his Instagram page: 

… A BLACK BABY in a medical text. While it might not seem like a big deal — Trust me. It is! In the 4 years of Human Biology, 4 years of medical school, and 4 years of residency I rarely- if ever-saw depictions of Black and Brown patients in medical text….Does it really matter? [A]bsolutely!!! And for so many reasons. 

Seeing yourself in your text means you matter. You are seen. You are not invisible. You engage more in the material….[I]t humanizes and normalizes Black and Brown bodies. It makes us better physicians because conditions DO present differently in different skin. The lack of diversity in our books mirrors the lack of diversity in our training. Could something as simple as equal representation of skin tones contribute to the humanization of Black and Brown bodies? It’s an important start.

Ibe is presently a student at Kyiv Medical University in Ukraine. He hopes to one day fulfill his dream of becoming a pediatric neurosurgeon. In the meantime, Ibe continues to share his ethnically diverse medical illustrations on social media, thus fulfilling the dreams of many. 

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