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Doni Crawford explains the concept of iatrophobia in the black community and how it affects her health decisions. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

I have a confession to make. It has been a decade since I’ve had a routine physical exam.
I’m almost too embarrassed to admit that. Year after year, I intended to go see a physician but I never picked up the phone to schedule the appointment. It’s hard to admit this because I am privileged enough to have access to health care and I personally know family and friends whose routine exams have saved their lives.

I occasionally ask myself why I have been reluctant to schedule the exam but I think I have subconsciously known the answer for quite some time. It seems the past is playing a role in why I’ve been avoiding the doctor.

A few years ago, I learned a term to describe what I might be experiencing while reading the award-winning book, “Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present.” It’s called black iatrophobia and the author, Harriet A. Washington, defines it as the fear of medicine present in the Black community as a result of a long history of involuntary, unethical and non-therapeutic treatment by medical professionals and institutions.



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