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#ShareTheMedicalMic: West Coast doctors reflect on amplifying Black voices in medicine

Many of us were wowed by the recent #ShareTheMicNow campaign, a day during which famous white women handed over their social media platforms to Black women. So we were thrilled to learn that this effort to expand the reach of Black women's voices sparked a national initiative for female physicians, too.

For #ShareTheMedicalMic on July 22, two physicians, Dr. Renee Paro and Dr. Lauren Powell, created a campaign for Black voices in medicine, motivated by the fact that we still see disproportionate numbers of health conditions and death affecting the Black community.

This enlightening movement involved 40 Black women physicians taking over the accounts of 40 other female physicians. The aim? To discuss issues affecting Black communities in health as well as the racism that seeps into the healthcare system.

We spoke with two doctors who teamed up for this momentous day of learning and community - Seattle-based Dr. Lora Shahine and California-based Dr. Temeka Zore, both of whom are reproductive endocrinologists (fertility doctors). These two powerhouses enthusiastically sing one another’s praises.

Shahine was initially asked by event organizers to participate, and she requested that Zore be her partner. Shahine, who finished fellowship in 2009, enjoys using her prominent social media presence as a means to educate and connect; Zore finished fellowship in 2019 in the same field.

“I’ve been active on social media for years,” Shahine said, “and Temeka is getting started on her professional social media presence - and doing an amazing job. She has a voice I want to amplify."

Shahine recruited Zore to be on the board of Baby Quest—a non-profit organization that gives grants for fertility treatment to people who cannot afford it.

“I just think Temeka is amazing,” Shahine commented, “and I want others to hear what she has to say.”

Zore feels grateful that Shahine has become her “unofficial mentor" of sorts.

“She has been amazing guiding me both with fertility, as well as guidance with growing a practice and social media presence,” Zore said. “I feel that this was an amazing opportunity to be a part of to amplify my voice and my experiences as a Black woman and Black physician in this country. While we all have similar training, our life experience getting to where we are now has been different, and I think it’s important to share those stories too.”

When asked the most meaningful topics addressed during the event, Zore points to race as well as her personal experience with postpartum depression.

“Lora has done an amazing job during this movement highlighting the racial disparities that exist in medicine, as well as in obstetrical and infertility data,” Zore said. “But, I think this experience was unique in that her followers had the chance to hear my voice and my experiences."

"I said at the very beginning of the takeover," she continued, "that I hoped followers would receive that Lora and I are very similar and that I am very similar to many of her followers, but we all have unique life experiences that make us different; those differences need to be highlighted and shared because it is what makes our country amazing.”

Zore wanted to share a peek into her life as a Black woman married to a white man with a mixed child.

“I wanted them to get a glimpse into our challenges,” she said. “I wanted to get a little uncomfortable, because I think only from listening and partaking in difficult conversations and approaching them with empathy can we actually grow as a society.”

Zore said the “check your privilege challenge” was one of the most eye-opening posts she shared.

“Basically you put a finger down if you have ever experienced a form of racism that the announcer says,” she explained. “At the end of those 12 (or so) items, I had all my fingers down while my white husband had 9 of his fingers still up. My husband and I are similar in that we grew up in the same area, have the same educational background and very similar honors and accolades, yet my journey in life and the racism I have experienced is vastly different from his journey.”

The biggest takeaway messages the women hoped for throughout this experience? “We all rise together,” Shahine said. “Our collective voice is more powerful than an individual voice.”

Zore added: “That we are more similar than we are different, despite differences in race. But, those differences between us should be cherished; it is what makes this country unique. “

She also wanted followers to see that, while we have come a long way in our history as a country, we still have a long way to go - and only when we educate ourselves and demand change and equality can we actually move forward.

“I think the first step to this country moving forward and growing from what the Black Lives Matter Movement has started, is [people] educating themselves and having really open and honest and (uncomfortable) conversations," said Zore. "Each has to recognize within ourselves what unconscious bias we may possess in order to re-educate and grow from that.”

Zore shared on her account, as well as on Shahine's, that she walks through life thinking about the color of her skin every day.

"I am very aware that there are many people in this country that hate me for merely being a black woman,” she said.

“Today is my 7th wedding anniversary, and I remember after we were engaged, I asked my now-husband if he was sure. I asked if he was sure he wanted to marry a Black woman, knowing we would have mixed kids and what a struggle that could be given the society we live in. He has always been honest that he will never know what myself, our son or any future children will go through because of the color of our skin, but he has been here, listening and learning and growing like everyone. I think it is so important that we all have these conversations!”

When it comes to highlights of the day, Shahine said, “The energy, response, hype was incredible. Instagram blew up that day with beautiful, intelligent Black women that I loved getting to know.”

She added how much she took away from behind-the-scenes emails and Zoom calls between the 80 participants, too.

“Connecting with colleagues and 79 other women who have similar goals and passion to educate, break down barriers in medicine is inspirational,” she said.

Zore was also blown away by the outpouring of respect, love and support present on the physicians' pages. “The comments about people’s eyes being opened to my life experience was a highlight,” she said, “because only when you educate yourself, can you grow.”

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