Black or Brown

By Dr Khwaja Ali Shahid | February 2021


When a person suffering from an illness visits an OPD clinic or someone who has met an accident is brought into the Emergency Room, his hopes are pinned on the doctors and medical staff to carry out their duties with their best capabilities and knowledge.

As a rule of thumb, those associated with the medical profession do not leave any stone unturned while treating their patients, applying their skills, expertise and knowledge. There are, however, remote incidents in the careers of almost all medical professionals where the required treatment or issues at hand completely defy the norms set by the textbook knowledge provided to them in their study years.

On such rare occasions where confusion and doubts might prevail, the insights and opinions of peers, seniors and seasoned consultants of the same discipline are preferred and adopted after due discussion while evaluating the pros and cons. Experience, in some instances, may thus be given preference over textbook knowledge. This confusion or grey area in the medical profession is not limited to a few incidents only. With gradual removal of the stigma associated with such psychiatric illnesses as anxiety and depression, we have seen rapid changes in the criteria to diagnose an individual with mental health concerns.

A few years or a decade back, these guidelines and criteria would be different to what is being considered the norm today. In a more recent case, we witnessed how the World Health Organization (W.H.O.), faced the music when they dismissed the probability of an asymptomatic carrier patient of COVID-19 spreading the disease.

Recently, the medical community globally was pleasantly surprised by the launch of a resource handbook called “Mind the Gap: A Handbook of Clinical Signs in Black and Brown Skin” by a second year medical student at St. George’s, University of London. The student Malone Mukwende’s broadened vision can be gauged by the fact that his contribution, at relatively such a tender age, acknowledges diversity and promotes equality in society, especially with respect to the medical fraternity while addressing life-threatening symptoms and diseases in coloured people.

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