“I knew I could make a change”: Zimbabwean medical student Malone Mukwende writes handbook for black and brown skin. Looking for weekend inspiration? We interviewed him. Read on:
Malone Mukwende: I was born at Mbuya Nehanda Hospital, in Harare. I moved to the UK with my family when I was two years old. I am currently a second year medical student at St George’s, University of London. I decided to go into medicine as I’ve always had a sense of compassion and the ability to help people.
Lack of teaching
On arrival at medical school I noticed the lack of teaching in darker skins. We were often being taught to look for symptoms such as red rashes. I was aware that this would not appear as described in my own skin. It was clear that tutors didn’t know of any other way to describe these conditions either. After asking peers, tutors and lecturers it was clear there was a major gap. I was motivated by the fact that I knew I could make a change. I have heard many stories about people being wrongly diagnosed, not taken seriously, or just not happy with the care they are receiving.
“I had to change it for others”
I knew that I had to change it for others who were being affected by the gap in medical teaching and perhaps prevent misdiagnosis and ultimately the loss of lives. From initial research I also found that Black women are 5 times more likely to die during childbirth, Black people are less likely to get pain medication. Ethnic minority patients are affected more than others. The current #COVID19 pandemic has further highlighted the need for this work.
A resource that will add value to medical care
Mind the Gap is a clinical handbook of signs and symptoms in black and brown skin. The book will essentially act as a resource that will add value to medical care. There is currently a white-skin bias in medical textbooks.
The process of writing the book began in December 2019. Margot Turner (Senior Lecturer in Diversity and Medical education) and Dr Peter Tamony (Clinical Lecturer in clinical skills) and I worked together to produce the book. We are now working really hard to get the work published and accessible to others.
The book is aimed at medical students and other allied healthcare professionals. Education is one of the most powerful tools anyone can have. I want it to be a resource that empowers medical professionals to have more confidence in treating patients of darker skin worldwide. I want it also to empower patients so that they know their story, understand their own condition and can be heard. I want this work to save lives and break down some of the health inequalities that exist globally.
Change in medical curriculum
I would like to see Mind the Gap become a staple in all medical institutions across the UK and eventually the world - from medical schools libraries through to GP consultation rooms. I would also like to see the medical curriculum change so that it is more inclusive of the diverse range of patients that it serves. This needs to be reflected across the entire course from clinical skills teachings to exams. You are never too small to make a change.
St George's, University of London