Angelina Jolie is opening up about how a major blind spot in the medical field has impacted her children. In a recent article for Time, the 46-year-old actress interviews Malone Mukwende, a medical student who’s on a mission to teach other doctors hopefuls how conditions and diseases can be present in non-white patients.
Mukwende, 21, started his project after learning that, Jolie writes, “almost all the images and data used in its teaching were based on studies of white patients,” which can lead to “misdiagnosis, suffering and even death.”
In response to Mukwende’s work, which has culminated with a handbook, Mind the Gap, and an online platform called Hutano, Jolie says that she’s seen the problem firsthand with her own kids. Jolie and her ex, Brad Pitt, share Maddox, 19, Pax, 17, Zahara, 16, Shiloh, 15, and 12-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne.
“I have children from different backgrounds, and I know when there was a rash that everybody got, it looked drastically different depending on their skin color,” Jolie explains. “But whenever I looked at medical charts, the reference point was always white skin.”
Jolie also experienced something similar when her eldest daughter, Zahara, who is Black, had surgery last year. “Recently my daughter, Zahara, whom I adopted from Ethiopia, had surgery, and afterward a nurse told me to call them if her skin ‘turned pink,'” Jolie says.
Mukunda notes that experiences like Jolie details are “the kind of thing I started to notice very early on.” “Almost the entirety of medicine is taught in that way. There’s a language and a culture that exists in the medical profession because it’s been done for so many years and because we are still doing it so many years later it doesn’t seem like it’s a problem,” he says. “
However, as you’ve just illustrated, that’s a very problematic statement for some groups of the population because it’s just not going to happen in that way, and if you’re unaware you probably won’t call the doctor.”