Zelda Okia, MDUncategorizedLeave a Comment


Did you know:

*An African American baby born in Milwaukee today has a 2 to 4 times increased risk of dying within the first year of life.

*In 2017, there were 120 infants in the City of Milwaukee that died before reaching their first birthday.

*Between 2013 and 2015, Wisconsin had the highest infant mortality rate for black babies in the country.

*The racial disparities in infant mortality persist even when education and income are taken into account.

These are sobering statistics regarding the fate of many black babies born in Milwaukee. It reminds of the time when I was a medical student doing my obstetrics and gynecology rotation at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Milwaukee. I was paired with a young teenager I will call Sonia. I remember going with her to her prenatal visits, actually driving her home a few times, and stopping at McDonalds with her for lunch.

We actually got along pretty well and had fun together. I was probably about five years older than her. She asked me to be the godmother to her then unborn child. I declined because I knew that as a medical student, I would not be able to fulfill the commitments required of the position. I barely had the time or energy to take care of myself, much less being a godmother to an infant. I often wondered if Sonia worried how she, still in high school, would be able to care for her child.

If she had any of those worries, she never expressed them to me. She seemed all too happy that she would finally be a mother to an infant that she could carry in her arms and who would love her unconditionally.

But, her little one came early. I think it was a week or so before Sonia was able to take him home with her. I do not remember his gestational age at birth, but even back then, the rate of preterm birth was higher in African Americans than in white babies.

Next Wednesday, December 18 at 6 pm, Dr. Janine James, OB/GYN and Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist, who was also one of my preceptors during my rotation at Good Samaritan hospital will host a discussion called “Killing Black Babies” at the Cromwellness Center, 3353 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, Milwaukee. The purpose of the gathering is to brainstorm solutions and strategies to eliminate the racial disparities in infant mortality that persist in Wisconsin.

We expect a lively discussion with ideas and plans for ways to improve the prospects and outlook for black babies born in Milwaukee. All are welcome to attend, share, and learn. Please see attached flyer: Killing Black Babies


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