A Hidden Narrative”: Black Women in Medicine

“Race matters.  It’s the first thing they see when people look at you.”

Directed by Crystal Emery ‘Black Women in Medicine’ grants us access into an experience that is shared by a small demographic of black women; the journey into the medical field.  A short but to the point production, you can expect to hear narratives from those who are in the current process of completing their residencies in addition to stories from those who have established careers in medicine, and historical anecdotes from the past that give insight to the journey of many black women and their climb up the limited ladders to successful careers in medicine.  What’s great about this documentary is that the commentary is very transparent and authentic.  The women featured in the project allow themselves to be vulnerable and share the pros and cons that come with being a doctor.


Doctors in the film (LtoR) Kristel Carrington (Student doctor) and Dr. Rashele Yarborough (Courtesy Crystal Emery)

One of the biggest cons seems to be the lack of respect given to the women in their respective practices let alone the access to becoming a doctor in the first place.  Conversations on gender equality, racism, and male chauvinism are heavily present in the film.  Imagine being the head surgeon for a conference and the entire audience believes that you are someone else because they can’t fathom the idea of you being in such a powerful position.  Or visualize preparing to perform a colonoscopy on a patient only to discover they have a big giant tattoo that says “white supremacy”.  These are the daily experiences of black women doctors, always in a position where they have to work harder to prove that their qualified in comparison to their other colleagues (which are mostly white males).  Within the United States minorities make up about 30% of the population but only 7% are doctors.  And when the amount of black women doctors is counted that percentage is almost nonexistent.  To further expound, the percentage of black women in medicine has only increase 2% since 1910.  This project does open a conversation about the lack of diversity and the fact that much more action must be taken in order to fairly balance the level of diversity in the medical field.

Dr. Jennifer Ellis

Dr. Jennifer Ellis (Courtesy Crystal Emery)

To compliment the insightful commentary there is great emphasis on sharing the history associated with the medical practice and the treatment of black women in the field since 1864.  We also learn about Rebecca Lee who became the very first black woman to serve as a physician in the United States in 1864.  Introduced are many women on various journeys that including being a family doctor, anesthesiologist, cardiologist, plastic surgeon, and even a psychiatrist.

On set with Michelle Mattere interviewing one of the doctors in the film

On set with Michelle Mattere interviewing one of the doctors in the film (Courtesy Crystal Emery)

There’s an element of empowerment that saturates within this film.  In addition to the many challenges black women face in this practice audiences get to witness the euphoria as applicants are accepted in to programs.  The tranquility embedded in the faces of these doctors as they expound upon the highs of their profession.  This project is a motivating too for young women and men who aspire to work in the medical field.  It also opens a lane for questions about additional careers.  If this is the experience of black women in medicine, what’s the experience like for black women in construction?  Or the experience in engineering, science, media, agriculture, administration?  Over this project scratches the surface of many talking points and opens a flood gate into an array of ideals and perspectives.

‘Black Women in Medicine’ written and directed by Crystal Emery is currently playing in theaters (NYC & LA) for a limited theatrical release (see below or for more information visit http://www.changingthefaceofmedicine.org/film/.

NYC: Cinema Village (8/26-9/1)

22 East 12th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Link)


LA: Laemmle’s Music Hall (9/2-9/8)

9036 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90211 (Link)



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