Black US physician working to end anti-Black obstetric racism

Project led by Dr. Karen A. Scott

Dr. Karen A. Scott

MEMPHIS, Tenn – Black mothers die in hospitals at nearly four times the rate of White mothers _ an appalling disparity that has persisted for decades despite state and national quality improvement initiatives, clinical safety innovations, and technological advances. These shocking statistics and outcomes persist regardless of patient income, insurance, educational level, comorbid conditions, or prenatal care.

The fact that many clinicians, decision makers, and policymakers continue to believe this excess incidence of death is the result of something inherently wrong with Black women is a symptom of America’s entrenched obstetric racism.

Traditional interventionists have focused on the victims of racism, with the goal of trying to teach patients to speak up. In contrast, Dr. Karen A. Scott, FACOG, MD, MPH, a community-based obstetrician/gynecologist for 20 years and a self-proclaimed “reproductive justice avenger”, is working to disrupt birth inequities with the SACRED (examining Safety, Autonomy, Communication, Racism, Empathy, and Dignity) Birth Study.

As the Founder and Lead Researcher for Birthing Cultural Rigor, the former professor has taken her work to the next level and seeks to make a larger impact on a bigger scale. Dr. Scott has expanded on her research to fight anti-Black obstetric racism with the primary objective of building community hospital capacity and capability to recognize and respond to the phenomenon of obstetric racism with Black women, girls, and gender expansive people.

“My vision is that by identifying areas for concrete action, hospitals, researchers, and policymakers will be able to examine associations between overall birth experience, patient experiences of obstetric racism, and clinical data to improve policy and practice,” states Dr. Scott when asked about her work and vision for the impact of Birthing Cultural Rigor.

In May, Dr. Scott and Birthing Cultural Rigor made history as it announced its partnership with Boston Medical Center. This partnership is a part of efforts from Boston Medical Center to address and eliminate racial inequities between white and BIPOC patients.

This collaboration is the first of its kind in the US to include a community-hospital partnership to implement a QI program to diagnose and dismantle obstetric racism through a program that is owned, designed, and led by a Black woman. It also is the first ever community-hospital partnership to implement a QI program that requires participation of Black mothers and birthing people as patient content, Black women and people as community experts, and hospital administrators, faculty, clinicians, and staff.

Through Birthing Cultural Rigor’s current efforts and future work, there is a hope that action will finally be taken to reduce the number of pregnancy-related complications and deaths within the Black community.