(While most fetuses are red—newborns come out dark pink or red and only gradually develop the skin color they will have for life—the medical illustration is intended to represent patients who are not used to seeing their own skin tones. Like these pictures .)
“The whole goal was to keep talking about what I’m passionate about – health care equality – and also to show black beauty,” he told the newspaper. “We don’t just need more representation like this – we need more people willing to create representation like this.”
CNN has reached out to Ibe for comment, but he did not elaborate on the topic further.
Ni Ka Ford, chair of the Diversity Committee for the Society of Medical Illustrators, said the organization is grateful for Ebee’s clarification.
“Besides the importance of representing the black and brown body in medical illustration, its illustration also serves to combat another major flaw in the medical system, the staggering disproportionate rate of maternal mortality in black women in this country,” she wrote in one of her articles. Send an email to CNN.
What is medical illustration
“Historically [medical illustrations] “There have always been good white-bodied male characters and they continue to do so today,” Ford said. “The bias towards one body type in the medical illustration marginalizes everyone else.”
Why diversity in the field is important
Diversity in the field of medical illustrations (or lack thereof) is important because these images can have implications for medical trainees, practitioners, and patients.
“Without fair representation and permanent use only of the white patients with white bodies described in medical textbooks, medical professionals are limited in their ability to accurately diagnose and treat people who do not fit this mold,” Ford said. “Medical professionals can then rely on racial stereotypes and generalizations because of this knowledge gap about how symptoms appear differently on darker skin tones, resulting in poor care.”
“For decades, peer-reviewed academic publications have used photographs and images that inadequately depict diversity in the demographics of patients with certain diseases,” the researchers wrote. “This is particularly striking in the lack of diversity in medical illustrations. These discrepancies in medical reports can have lasting effects on access to and provision of health care.”
Those who are not often depicted in medical illustrations, Ford said, “can feel neglected and unrecognized in the health care setting, leading to feelings of mistrust and isolation when receiving care.” She also said that medical professionals may feel less empathy for unrepresented groups — black, brown, women, transgender or non-binary people — which may reduce the quality of care they receive.
Despite the continuing need for medical illustrations to depict the full range of human diversity, the field is beginning to see changes, medical illustrator Hilary Wilson told CNN.
“The truth is there are different types of people,” she said. “For me, a resource is not complete if I don’t at least think about it, and do my best to account for the fact that there are so many different types of people.”
While Ebe’s image of a black fetus appears to be a departure from the norm, Wilson said she hopes seeing black skin tones in medical illustrations will become routine in the future.
“In the end, I hope it becomes just one of the expected things,” she added.