An interview with Dr. Onye Nnorom

Over the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to host podcasts as part of my work with the medical journal Canadian Family Physician. This month, I had the most interesting conversation with Dr. Onye Nnorom, a family physician and public health specialist in Toronto. In this podcast, we dove into the details of the paper she published with her colleagues in the November edition of the journal. The research explores Afrocentric approaches to cancer screening for immigrant patients in Ontario.

Along with our discussion of culturally appropriate screening approaches, we reviewed how the same principles could be applied to address vaccine hesitancy. In medical culture, we can often be frustrated when our patients refuse vaccines, but understanding context is key. For example, there is a history of Black individuals being used in medical experimentation. One example is the Tuskegee Study. This research, conducted by the U.S. Government, involved observing the effects of untreated Syphilis on Black men. The study continued until the 1970s despite the fact that Penicillin was known to be the treatment of choice for Syphilis since the 1940s. If there is distrust within Black communities toward western, government-funded medicine, it makes senses given this violent history.

Instead of meeting our vaccine-hesitant patients with judgement, a more effective approach is to try and understand where they are coming from. Dr. Noorom’s research will be highly valuable for clinicians as we counsel our patients with cultural sensitivity during this difficult time. Please have a listen to the interview and let me know what you think of it in the comments below!

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