A Nigerian-American medical student is sharing insight from her lived experience as a Black woman to help those who look like her.
The opportunity for Udongwo came about after learning that Hillel Maresky, her research mentor and Temple radiologist, wanted to build a knowledge base that works to distinguish protective hairstyles when looking at radiological scans. According to the American Medical Association, a survey from 2021 showed that only 3% of radiologists are Black.
“I’m surrounded by people who really like to learn and want to become better physicians,” Udongwo said, according to the outlet. “I’m really excited to see where this goes.”
The research project is crucial as it works to combat Black patients receiving poor care from physicians.
“Whenever something obscures the image from a scan, physicians call it an artifact,” the outlet explained. “The artifacts from common Black hairstyles appear as opaque squiggles, and can be mistaken for signs of disease. The medical literature on how to interpret these artifacts is sparse, leaving physicians room to make errors. This may lead them to direct patients to get more tests, a potentially costly inconvenience that can also expose them to unnecessary radiation.”
The outlet notes that Udongwo and the Temple researchers plan to use their findings to create educational materials to teach more radiologists, especially those who are white, about Black hairstyles in medical imaging.
“We may not be the most well endowed hospital in terms of donations and grants,” Maresky said. “But we do have something that, I think, is even more powerful: A diverse patient population.”