Legacy: A Black Physician Reckons with Racism in Medicine by Uché Blackstock, MD

Legacy author, courtesy Diane Zhao

c.2024, Viking   
304 pages

By Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Truth Contributor

Ugh, suddenly, just now, you don’t feel well. Not at all.

It might help to lie down somewhere for a few minutes or maybe there’s something in a drawer in the bathroom you could take to feel better. Need a doctor? Having the right skin color might help, as in the new book Legacy by Uché Blackstock, MD.

Her career choice seemed like the most natural thing in the world.

Uché Blackstock and her twin sister, Oni, practically grew up in a hospital, doing homework in a staff room while their physician-mother made her rounds. The girls got a front-row peek into what it was like to be a Black female doctor and because of their mother’s influence, it never entered their minds to choose another career.

That inspiration lingered: after their mother died young of cancer, Blackstock chose to work as an ER doctor, caring for her Brooklyn and Bronx neighbors like her mother did. Blackstock knew the history: Black people had long been objects for experimentation, without painkillers and without their permission. Early in the last century, Black midwives were forbidden from practicing because of a testing matter. A document called the Flexner Report led to low numbers of Black doctors for nearly a century.

She also knew the statistics: Black patients are less likely to get pain medications than are white patients. Black mothers are at a higher risk than white mothers for maternal death, miscarriage, and problems at delivery. Half of all medical treatment in the U.S. today happens in an ER, and many of those patients are Black, poor, and without a safety net.

Knowing these things, working under those facts, took its toll.

When she was small, Blackstock played with her mother’s leather medical bag and the treasures inside it. She dreamed of carrying it to her own patients someday but her job, meant to help people, left her exhausted, frustrated, and emotionally tangled.

It was time to try something else…

This year, if you’re average, you’ll spend roughly fifteen minutes face-to-face with your doctor at an appointment. You’ll come prepared, and so will your physician; bring Legacy, and you’ll come with stats that are alarming, although very little of it’s new.

Indeed, the news lately has been full of stories of Black patients and sub-par care and author Uché Blackstock underscores every bit of that news with personal experiences to support the facts, scattered inside a dual biography of her and her mother. Readers will enjoy the stories of Blackstock women becoming physicians and you’ll be dismayed at generational and historical roadblocks they overcame. Read these triumphs, but don’t lose sight of the other important thing here: remember, as Blackstock often urges, that advocating for one’s self or a loved one is key to maintaining health and surviving.

Readers concerned about their well-being will be glad they read this book. Biography fans will love it for different reasons. Either way, getting what you want out of Legacy is easy, and you’ll feel quite well about it.