When we learnt about the Musculoskeletal system last year, we were told that in dermatomyositis, a connective tissue condition, a signature heliotrope/lilac rash is seen on the upper eyelids. I remember thinking at the time, “Does this show on black people too?” But I didn’t ask.
I thought the same when we learnt about lupus, and the lecture slides showed how it presented in people with lighter skin tones. From Gottron’s papules to Psoriasis to Jaundice to Giant Cell Arteritis, the majority of pictures we were shown were of white patients.
It continued this year with the Respiratory system. A clear sign of respiratory distress is cyanosis, and this is when skin appears bluish in colour because of inadequate oxygenation of the blood. Again I thought, “…Does this show on black people too?” But this time I decided to ask, and my GP tutor then told us the other signs you’d have to look for in patients with darker skin, because ofcourse they don’t turn blue.
You see, what we don’t really get taught as medical students is how to recognise signs in people of colour. For some conditions, there are signs and symptoms that don’t present in the same way as they do in people with lighter skin tones, so it’s not good that this isn’t really emphasised, because when we’re doctors not all our patients will be white.
I’m going to try to make more of an effort to speak up in the future, but to be honest, sometimes it gets tiring being “the person who makes things all about race.” So I guess because of this I can agree that from what I’ve experienced so far, yes, my curriculum is white.