Fifty-seven years ago, an Associated Press account of the annual meeting of the Medical Committee for Human Rights quotes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Of all the forms of inequality,” the civil rights leader said that day, “injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane.”
All these years later the impact of racism on health persists. MLK week at Loomis Chaffee, January 16-20, will include events that focus on health inequities. The school’s annual series of events celebrates the teachings and legacy of Dr. King, who was assassinated in 1968.
To kick off MLK Week, Dr. Jenny Tsai will address the school community in the Olcott Center on Monday, January 16. Dr. Tsai is an emergency medicine physician at Yale School of Medicine. She attended medical school at Brown University, where she also earned a bachelor’s degree in ethnic studies and human biology. She has a master’s degree in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her research focuses on the intersection of race, inequity, trauma-informed care, and medicine.
On Wednesday, January 18, the documentary film Black Motherhood through the Lens will be shown in Gilchrist Auditorium starting at 7 p.m. with discussion to follow. The film, according to its website, is about “four Black women's experiences navigating the reproductive and maternal healthcare system from conception to postpartum. The women in this series have experienced miscarriage, lack of access to infertility care, fears about childbirth, and postpartum depression.”
The film was produced and directed by Adeiyewunmi (Ade) Osinubi, recipient of a 2022 National Minority Quality Forum 40 under 40 Leader in Health Award. Dr. Tsai was a recipient of the same award in 2021.
“Our team came up with the idea to show the film because I don’t think a lot of people think about reproductive health, especially in the Black community,” said Ashley Augustin, chief diversity officer and director of the Center for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. “It’s usually untold stories, and we were hoping to bring that to light.”
Many numbers point to inequity in healthcare, and reproductive healthcare is one example. In Connecticut, Black babies are more than four times as likely to die before their first birthdays than babies born to white mothers, and they are twice as likely to have low-birth weight compared to white babies, according to a Connecticut Health Foundation study.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has found that Black women nationally are three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes compared to white women. Black women also have a higher risk of developing a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder than white women, according to an article from the Seleni Institute, which advocates for emotional health.
“We are hoping students understand that in reproductive health, disparities exist,” Ashley said. “It’s conception to postpartum … Postpartum disorder is something that is not really addressed within the Black community. That is an issue. And there are a lot of fatalities that happen with Black mothers due to inequity in healthcare.”
The MLK Week schedule:
Monday, Jan. 16 (9:15 am - 2:30 p.m.): Convocation with Jenny Tsai in Olcott Gym; advisees meet with advisors/lunch; student performances in Olcott Gym. These will include song, dance, and the spoken word as well as performances by the Loomis choir and the Loomis orchestra.
Wednesday, Jan. 18 (7-8 p.m.): Film Screening and discussion: Black Motherhood through the Lens, Gilchrist Auditorium.
Friday, Jan 20 (7:30-8:30 p.m.): Poetry Slam with artists Criston Oates Band, Tre Brown, D. Colin and Tracy Caldwell in the SNUG. Student poets welcomed.