Mind the Gap, How Common Medical Symptoms Appear on Dark Skin

Me and Claire who I haven’t heard from in a very long time got talking about last year. From the covid19 pandemic, to the vaccine, systematic racism and to trypanophobia. It was during that conversation mind the gap was mentioned.

I had never really imagined or thought the images and books medical students might be learning from, may not have people with dark skin. Meaning an unbalance in the treatment of dark skinned people simply because of education.

Simple things like finding veins which are relatively easy to see under white skin can be challenging under black skin (generally). There were other aspects which I hadn’t ever thought about…

This where mind the gap came up… from the root

A Zimbabwe-born medical student living in London is filling in an important blind spot in the medical community: informing healthcare providers and patients how symptoms for a broad range of conditions appear on darker skin.

It’s the kind of problem that feels shockingly outdated for the 21st century, but as 20-year-old St. George student Malone Mukwende recently told the Washington Post, the lack of teaching about darker skin tones, and how certain symptoms would present differently on nonwhite skin, was obvious by his first class at the University of London school.

“It was clear to me that certain symptoms would not present the same on my own skin,” Mukwende told The Post, referring to conditions like rashes, bruises, and blue lips. He quickly extrapolated that the same would be true of other people sharing similarly dark skin.

Malone Mukwende
Malone Mukwende

If this was dated in the 80’s I would understand but Mukwende started the book which is free to download in 2020!

Shocking but so glad of the solution, although its worth noting there is things missing from the book where you could help.

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.