The Medical Student who has produced a handbook of clinical signs on Black and Brown skin.
Malone Mukwende is a second year medical student from St. George's, University of London, who has produced a resource which shows how clinical signs appear on darker skin, called Mind the Gap. This handbook was produced as a result of his personal experience in medical education as part of a student-staff partnership project at his university. We were able to speak with him regarding his personal experiences, Mind the Gap and more.
What was your journey getting into medicine like?
This is one of my favourite stories to tell. My journey was rather unusual, so only applying to med school I applied at Birmingham, Leicester, Nottingham and Oxford. Unfortunately I got rejected by all of them initially. Results day came and I had the necessary grades so I started to phone all of the med schools in the country to see if they had a place. I managed to get through to St. George's in London who have a clearing scheme for Medicine. Funnily enough I called St. George's and got confirmed for an interview at about 10:30 in the morning for an interview that started at 1pm that same day. Bearing in mind I was in Birmingham and Google Maps was already telling me that I’d be late to the interview. Also as I only received the invitation to interview 2hr 30min in advance I had no time to prepare anything.
*Fast forward a whole load of time*
I arrived to the interview about 45 minutes late thinking that they wouldn’t let me in but luckily I was allowed to attend the interview regardless. I honestly just said things from my heart and didn’t complicate anything. Where I didn’t know the answer I would simply say I don’t know as I hadn’t prepared anything.
That same day about an hour after receiving my interview I received an offer from St George's.
It felt like I did the full application process in just a few hours.
How has your experience of medicine school been so far?
The medical school experience is a constant battle of love and hate. Some days are better than others however keeping focused on the end goal is what keeps me going. There has definitely been a lot of growth on a personal front since the day I begun. I have also managed to find a good group of friends and a lovely community that is the St. George's African and Caribbean Society which has been an amazing way for me to be involved in something outside of my course.
The medical school experience is a constant battle of love and hate. Some days are better than others however keeping focused on the end goal is what keeps me going.
What sparked Mind the Gap and how did it come to be?
On arrival at medical school I noticed the lack of teaching in darker skin. We were often being taught to look for symptoms such as red rashes which I was aware would not appear as described in my own skin. When flagging this to tutors it was clear that they didn’t know of any other way to describe these conditions on patients of darker skin tones and I knew that I had to make a change to that. After extensively asking peer tutors and lecturers it was clear there was a major gap in the current medical education and a lot of the time I was being told to go and look for it myself.
Following on from that I undertook a staff-student partnership at my university with two members of staff who helped me to create Mind the Gap.
What impact do you hope Mind the Gap will have?
I would like to see Mind the Gap become a staple in all medical institutions across the UK and eventually in the world. This being everywhere from medical school libraries through to GP consultation rooms.
I hope the work makes healthcare professionals aware of some of the biases they may have and know what impact this has on patients. It is important medical professionals are aware of variation in presenting symptoms when treating the diverse range of patients that they serve. I hope the work will help to increase the confidence of darker skinned patients to seek medical advice.
I would also like to see the medical curriculum change so that it is more inclusive of the diverse range of patients that it serves. This needs to be reflected across the entire course from clinical skills teachings to having the content diversified in exams. I would like to also see diversity in the healthcare field increase as representation matters.
It is important medical professionals are aware of variation in presenting symptoms when treating the diverse range of patients that they serve.
Do you have any other interests, or aspects of Medicine you would like to pursue?
I love photography and visual arts in general. My photography has featured in Vogue Italia’s online server 5 times which is one of my biggest photography achievements. Fashion and trainers are a big part of my life, you can never have too many clothes or too many pairs of trainers in my opinion. Unfortunately I can’t decide but my favourite pairs are definitely either Yeezy 700s or Air Jordan 1s.
With regards to Medicine I haven’t decided what field I will like to pursue. I am keeping my mind open to new ideas, I was surprised at my interest in geriatrics although on paper it sounded like the worst thing ever!
Any words of advice to current medical students trying to seek change in their medical school?
Be the change that you want to see in the world. Your individuality is what makes you powerful, nobody else has the same lived experience as you. That is what you bring to the table which is highly valuable and unique.
Any words of advice to prospective medical students?
Don’t let failure define you, everyone’s routes to medicine are completely different. Also it is very important to focus on your own path, I used to spend so long worrying what other people were doing leaving me with little time to actually do stuff for myself so focus on your goals and don’t give up if things get difficult.
Be the change that you want to see in the world. Your individuality is what makes you powerful, nobody else has the same lived experience as you.
We congratulate Malone once again on producing an amazing resource that will no doubt contribute to changing the landscape of medical education all over the country for years to come as well as improve medical treatment for Black and Brown people. We eagerly await the publication of Mind the Gap!