By Josephine Reid
As we look to trusted messengers when it comes to taking care of our health in Black America, having a physician who shares not only your skin tone but also your experiences and family background has become even more crucial during this COVID-19 era.
Dr. Samira L. Brown, primary care pediatrician at Piedmont Healthcare in Georgia, recently sat down with Kim Jacobs on the Kim Jacobs Show podcast, a program that focuses on topics that are “real, relevant, and relatable,” to discuss National Minority Health Month this April.
Jacobs brought up the staggering statistic that Black women physicians make up less than 3% of doctors in the United States. Dr. Samira Brown, who is a part of that 3%, talked about the journey that led up to her being the prominent pediatrician she is today.
“I always knew I wanted to be a pediatrician,” said Dr. Brown. “My parents told my siblings and me we could do anything we wanted; you just have to give back to your community.”
Dr. Brown has been advocating for children for her entire career, especially children of color. Her advocacy continues strongly through her COVID-19 vaccination messaging for parents and families.
The role that structural racism has in health care experiences and outcomes is hard to take in. Black mothers are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. Black children are 7.6 times more likely to live in low opportunity neighborhoods, which results in an average 7-year reduction in life expectancy. Black people ages 45-54 are 6 times more likely to die of COVID-19.
“Every child deserves high quality equitable care, no matter skin color, what their parents do, what insurance they have, etc.,” said Dr. Brown. “We saw very quickly that there were higher rates of COVID-19 in our community. There is a staggering number of Black children that lost a parent or caregiver due to the virus. There is grief with the sequalae of COVID-19.”
Dr. Brown pointed to Camp Erin, which does great work with children who have experienced these losses, helping work through the stigma of mental health with the community.
Brown also brought to light telehealth, which has become more accessible due to the pandemic.
“I want families to be armed with education,” stated Brown. “Don’t feel bad about asking questions and seeking a second or even third opinion [at the doctor’s office].
Dr. Brown also told personal stories of her experiences as a minority in health care. She talked about the “danger of taking off the white coat,” or even the implicit bias that can take place with it on, such as being referred to as something other than a doctor, or mistakenly being given orders. “One way I deal with this is referring to wearing my raincoat and letting things trickle down off of me.” Brown talked about ways she protects her own mental health: by talking through the implicit bias so the person can learn (if they’re able to), and by making sure you’re reprioritizing your patient and yourself.
There is much to learn when it comes to minority health care from our trusted Black messengers. They have been on the front lines during the pandemic and have always been on the front lines of their communities.
As we march on through these times, bringing awareness to health disparities and encouraging each generation to get protected by way of COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, the importance of awareness of the ins and outs of health care in our community is critical to bring to the forefront.
For resources and toolkits to help you build vaccine confidence in your community, visit the We Can Do This website.