I suspect that this question will elicit discomfort among some people but is has to be addressed because living in one of the most diverse cities in the world, it is easy to assume that the same quality of services is provided to people irrespective of race.

However, the reality is vastly different from what we assume and layered in complexities. We now know that people of African descent do not access health care services at the rate of the rest of the population and that their health outcomes after accessing services is worse than any other group.

There are numerous factors that contribute to the current situation.   From an historical perspective, we know that during the days of slavery medical procedures were done on slaves without their consent and generally without the use of anesthesia because of a belief that their tolerance for pain was higher.

We also are aware of the Tuskegee medical trial when the cure for Syphilis was withheld from black men because scientists wanted to track the progression of the disease from infection to death.

More recently, we learned of Henrietta Lacks, a black woman whose death from ovarian cancer lead to one of the most important breakthrough in medicine in the last century.  Ms. Lacks possessed so-called “immortal cells” that allowed scientists to grow cells outside the human body, something they were unable to do for decades.

These HeLa cell cultures have been used extensively for research around the world and have been instrumental in the development of a vaccine for polio as well as cancer research and countless other medical advances.

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