PCOM Community Addresses Black Maternal Health, Mortality and Equity
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PCOM Community Addresses Black Maternal Health

April 25, 2022

PCOM community members participated in an online panel addressing black maternal healthPCOM community members addressed Black maternal health, mortality and equity during an online panel discussion.

Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than White women.

That Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistic is why PCOM South Georgia’s OB/GYN Club and Sisters in Medicine—an initiative that supports Black women in medical and graduate school—in collaboration with the Office of Diversity and Community Relations, hosted an online panel to address Black maternal health. The PCOM community joined the panel to listen as Jillian Lucas Baker, DrPH, EdM; Jessica Brumfield Mitchum, DO ‘16; Jenne Johns, MPH, and Karla Booker, MD, addressed black maternal health, mortality and equity.

An overarching message delivered by panel members was the need for future physicians to listen to and advocate for Black patients. Kicking off the panel, Dr. Booker, a practicing physician and assistant professor at Morehouse School of Medicine, said, “This is about the value of life, inherent bias and what being a Black person means. When people see us, do they see someone who matters as much as everyone else?”

Dr. Baker, who serves as the Executive Director at The Center for Parent and Teen Communication at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, echoed that sentiment, adding “Until we as a society correct and pay attention to racism, Black women will continue to see negative outcomes during pregnancy and post-delivery. We experience more stress when we’re pregnant due to the racism we face, so that impacts the outcomes for women and babies.”

According to the CDC, multiple factors contribute to these disparities, such as the variation in quality health care, underlying chronic conditions, structural racism, and implicit bias. Social determinants of health prevent many people from racial and ethnic minority groups from having fair opportunities for economic, physical and emotional health.

The panelists stated that future healthcare workers can address the topic in a few different ways: advocate for their patients, create open conversations and continue learning about themselves.

“If we don’t have this conversation, it will be assumed that we’re okay with these outcomes,” said Jones.

Dr. Mitchum, a PCOM Georgia alumna, practices family medicine in Moultrie and sees many patients who are Black women.

“Until people value the life of a Black woman and Black baby, this will continue to be a problem,” she said. “Future healthcare workers must advocate for Black women and bring awareness to this problem. Becoming a good listener to the patient and asking questions are crucial. It starts when you walk through the door and they see someone who looks like them.”

Student-doctor Justice Dove (DO ‘25), cofounder of the OB/GYN club at PCOM South Georgia, moderated the panel. She said it is crucial that PCOM students have these conversations with Black professionals.

“PCOM is responsible for molding some of the greatest providers. Having access to conversations that place the most marginalized and minoritized groups at the center—while discussing realistic strategies to help—not only benefits those in need but everyone around them.“

Jones spoke on advocating for patients and having open conversations with others. She said, “People like us will be the champions and advocates to create forums and to share experiences that are not right within the healthcare system. Additionally, we must hold ourselves accountable to listen to these Black mothers.”

When it comes to learning more about themselves, Dr. Baker suggested that participants complete an implicit bias test–a test that measures attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to recognize.

“The earlier we can change that bias, the sooner Black women and babies will have better experiences,” she said.

An implicit bias test can be found on Project Implicit website.

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  • About PCOM South Georgia

    In 2019, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), a premier osteopathic medical school with a storied 125-year history, extended its commitment to the Southeast by establishing PCOM South Georgia. An additional teaching location in Moultrie, Georgia, PCOM South Georgia offers both a full, four-year medical program leading to the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree and a Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences. PCOM is a private, not-for-profit institution that trains professionals in the health and behavioral sciences fields. Joining PCOM Georgia in Suwanee in helping to meet the healthcare needs of the state, PCOM South Georgia focuses on educating physicians for the region. For more information, visit pcom.edu or call 229-668-3110.

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    Email: cindymo@pcom.edu
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