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This doctor says historical legacies of racism affect women's health today

 Dr. Washington Hill is an obstetrician-gynecologist who specializes in high-risk pregnancies
courtesy Dr. Hill
Dr. Washington Hill is an obstetrician-gynecologist who specializes in high-risk pregnancies

Dr. Washington Hill is speaking on the issue this week at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's 43rd annual pregnancy meeting in San Francisco.

February is Black History Month, and WUSF is airing the voices of local people in the community who are speaking about the importance of learning Black history.

Today we hear from a Sarasota obstetrician-gynecologist about how the historical legacies of racism affect the health and lives of women and children today.

He spoke to WUSF via Zoom this week from San Francisco where he's attending and speaking at an annual doctors' meeting on maternal-fetal health.

"My name is Dr. Washington Hill. I'm an OB-GYN and high-risk pregnancy physician. And I have actually delivered babies for over 55 years.

"I think it's so important to teach Black history for both Black and white, and anyone, because Black history is a part of history.

"I also think it's so very, very important — I have four grandchildren who are white, Jewish, and one who is Black — and I believe that all of them should learn about Black history. It makes them better. It makes them a better person to know, not only their own history, but the history of everyone. So I support, particularly in these times, Black history, white history, Asian history, Ukrainian history, all of it being taught to all of our students and to ourselves.

"I'm actually in San Francisco at our annual Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine meeting. And my talk on Wednesday is on disparities, diversity, and what we as maternal-fetal medicine doctors, high-risk pregnancy doctors, particularly the young ones, should be doing about that.

"It is so clear that there are disparities in the outcomes of women in this country having babies. That is a given, we have to admit to that. Most recently, there was published some data from Louisiana, data from Mississippi, and data from Florida. And it's clear that the outcomes of a Black woman having a baby in this country in most states are poor, worse — more sickness, more death — than a white woman.

"So having said that, we have to move on and say why is that? They are not different biologically. And there's a host of reasons, including the social determinants of health, which are factors of where we live, work, love and play.

"And other factors are how the women are treated, how they're taken care of, and this is due to racism, and explicit and implicit bias. And as I will be saying on Wednesday, unless we recognize that that exists, and do something about it, the disparities will never change.

"So I'm getting near the end of my career. And what I hope to do is to inspire — and I have — young folks to pick up the mantle and say, why is it and what can I do about it?"

Copyright 2023 WUSF 89.7

Kerry Sheridan is a reporter and co-host of All Things Considered at WUSF Public Media.