Weekly Newsletter

Let's celebrate Black health activists

Black health experts are often overlooked in the media and history books. Come meet a few creative changemakers taking medical racial bias to task.
A color photograph of a Black woman in her bedroom, stretching while sitting up on her bed. She's wearing a pink-red nightdress and headband.

Welcome to the Dr. B Newsletter, a curated healthcare email that delivers vetted reads on whole-body health. Dr. B’s mission is to make healthcare accessible + equitable. So we’re all about improving Black health year-round. But as this week closes Black History Month, let's celebrate a few of the Black artists, physicians + activists working for better health in their communities. Plus, links + news to help us keep on keepin' on.

  • The Checkup: inspiration to feel good!
  • Lit Health: hip-hop history + TikTok advocacy
  • Healthcare: depression + Covid rebounds
  • We Now Treat: hair loss!

The Checkup

One of the 5.7% making moves

A closeup color photograph of a Black woman wearing a sleeveless top points at a screen a young Black doctor wearing blue scrubs is holding.

Fewer than 6% of U.S. physicians are Black or African American—an issue covered at CNN.

On TikTok, medical student Joel Bervell takes such medical racial bias to task.

Bervell's videos share resources (like how to find a Black doctor) and educate physicians + patients on topics like false biological beliefs about Black bodies and Black medical pioneers. Some knowledge can mean life-versus-death for his followers—like when he explained a study revealing how blood oxygen meters can overestimate oxygen levels on dark skin, so not everyone who needs supplemental oxygen gets it. He’s also dispelled myths about pain tolerance + shown how conditions like a deer tick bite look on dark skin. (Medical resources usually show such things on light skin.)

To keep learning, give him a follow on TikTok or Instagram.

Hip hop's health history

A color outdoor photograph of a young Black girl standing next to a fence. She's wearing a black and white jacket and holding headphones up to her ears.

Hip-hop celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. At Men's Health, a series of interviews + essays brilliantly chronicles how hip-hop artists have taken on Black healthcare issues over these decades.

“We had to find a way to use our outlet, our voices in this industry, to educate,” says Fred T. Jackson, former Elektra Records project manager, of how artists worked to destigmatize STDs + AIDS in the ‘90s.

Trainer Mark Jenkins recalls how training Diddy for the 2003 NYC Marathon sparked a massive spectator turnout “because the ‘hood came out to see Puff run. I was very intent on getting people in my culture in shape, so they could then affect change and motivate all Black people to get in shape.”

The series also covers how artists took on addiction + poverty in the ‘70s, gun violence in the ‘80s, and aging + chronic illness in the 2010s. Spend some time with it here.

Hip Hop Public Health

An indoor color photograph of a young Black teen with Black hear wearing a pink tank and pajama pants, sitting on a catch in a room with pink walls and a plant, writing in a journal on her lap.

At a winter Art Basel event, rap legend DMC said that “art succeeds where politics and religion fail.”

DMC’s an advisory board member for Hip Hop Public Health—a collective of artists + educators who use hip-hop to address youth wellness, exercise, healthy eating, mental health, racism and community organizing. They've partnered their programming with organizations like The Special Olympics + The American Heart Association. But the Art Basel panel specifically addressed destigmatizing mental health issues, with DMC pressing how it’s vital that Black communities normalize talking about bipolar disorder, depression, suicidal thoughts + self-medicating.

Learn more + explore + donate at Hip Hop Public Health.

Healthcare 411

How inflammation in the body may explain depression in the brain (Washington Post). Researchers have identified the effect of inflammation on the brain—and why it may contribute to triggering or exacerbating depression. Specifically, inflammatory agents in the blood can break down barriers to the brain, causing inflammation there. The research suggests around 30% of patients with depression have this inflammation, implying that medications to target the inflammation may succeed where antidepressants fail.

 The new scientific review on masks and Covid isn’t what you think (Vox). Cochrane analyses are considered a healthcare industry gold standard, so their latest paper has shocked health experts. It concluded that masks do not stop Covid-19 community transmission. But of 78 studies included, only six were taken during the pandemic. Most studies normal flu transmission conditions + interventions like hand washing. Only two addressed Covid-19 + masking specifically. Read the article to learn what we should really take away from the report.

Covid-19 rebound can happen even without Paxlovid (Time). 1.7% of Paxlovid patients get a rebound infection. So a new study delivers scary results—26% of participants who were given a Paxlovid placebo had symptoms return 11 days after onset. 31% had higher virus levels than their initial tests. 3% had both returned symptoms + a higher viral load. Researchers stress that Paxlovid successfully deters hospitalization and severe illness for high-risk people. But any rebound means you’re contagious. So expect more studies about this rebound cycle ahead.

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