The Moorland Spingarn Research Center hosted a Breast Cancer Awareness panel which discussed the importance of Breast Cancer awareness, the relationship between the Black community and medicine and the significance of being present for someone in their time of need.
Towards the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month on Oct. 26 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m, the panel was held inside the Founder’s Library Browsing room and was attended by numerous Howard students. The speakers consisted of Dr. Tsion Ketema, a gynecologist at Reiter, Hill & Johnson which provides obstetric and gynecologic care to patients in the Metro Washington, D.C. area, and Kelechi Fluitt, the Director of Outreach and Counseling Services at Howard University.
The panelists addressed why it’s important to talk about Breast Cancer Awareness and why awareness is important to the Black community.
“Your health is all you have. It is the basis for everything,” said Ketema. “Your body is what shows up for you each and every day for you to go out into this world, for you to be a student, at that job. It really is all that you have. It is serving you every day.”
Ketema addressed why Black people are hesitant to seek out a doctor in their time of need due to what she described as a history of medical mistreatment of Black people by medical professionals and the government.
“So much of it goes back to the experiments. The founder of Gynecology, the basis of our textbooks, did his experiments on Black women without their permission,” Ketema said.
“From doing hysterectomies on women, sterilization on women historically… not treating the men who had syphilis, there’s a long history of Black people either not getting the treatment they need or being experimented on without their permission. It’s been documented and it wasn’t that long ago…there are parents, grandparents who remember those things.”
Another component of the panel included providing ways to show up for someone in need and how medical professionals play an important aspect in establishing trust between a person and their doctors or therapist.
“I think it’s a component of having people who ideally look like you in the field that helps to encourage that trust,” Ketema. “This idea that ‘I’m not here to harm you… I’m in the healthcare field..because I want to be helpful to you as a patient but more than anything I want to help my community.”
“I think the education behind breast cancer and Breast Cancer Awareness is important and I love the fact that we’re having this conversation with younger people because I think it’s important that as you go on your health journey, to just be aware,” Fluitt said.
Fluitt encourages students to be mindful of their own care and the resources available to students.
“The service is a mental health opportunity for our students to get mental support essentially. We do individual support, group therapy, psychoeducational assessments,” she said.
According to the Breast Cancer Research Center, while the rate of getting breast cancer is close between Black and White women, Black women have “a 40% higher mortality rate,” and are likely to have the cancer discovered in an aggressive form.
The American Cancer Society also writes that is “likely rooted in structural racism, which contributes to inequalities in the social determinants of health, including access to care” and a main reason being “inadequate health insurance.” Because of these issues, Black people are more likely to be diagnosed later in an aggressive form, experience delays in treatment, and are less likely to receive the recommended treatment.
The Moorland Spingarn is one of the largest and most comprehensive repositories for the documentation of history and other parts of the world. As one of Howard’s major research facilities, the center collects, prepares, organizes and makes available for research a wide range of resources chronicling the Black experience which was first a private library donated by Dr. Jesse Moorland, a Howard alumnus and former trustee of the University back in 1914.
The resources of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center are welcome to all visitors and seeks to uphold its tradition of providing maximum research service to its local, national and worldwide community of scholars and is currently housed in the Founder’s Library.
Copy edited by Alana Matthew