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Celebration of Scholarship and Creative Activity 2023

The Way They See Us: The Historical Experiences of Black Women as Patients in Mainstream Health Care

Ene Priscilla Idoko

Senior, BBA Economics


For centuries, Black women have been “treated” in medical facilities as a monolithic group of people. The struggles we faced during slavery have persisted in healthcare today. Our bodies have been fragmented into parts for the use of medical practice and thereby have been situated as the threshold of experimentation. This presentation seeks to discuss the ways in which we as Black women have been consistently mistaken, misunderstood, and mistreated in medical practice. Experiments have been abundant featuring Black women as test subjects… many of them without their consent. Medical racism, and the stereotypical assumption that Black women have a higher pain tolerance than their white counterparts, and the different ways Black women’s bodies are disregarded and are seen as disposable after they have been misused is common. This presentation will consider the story of The Relf Sisters, the ‘Father of Modern Gynecology’ James Marion Sims and the experiments he performed on enslaved women, and even the story of Fannie Lou Hamer as I uncover the fact that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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