Dr. Karen A. Scott: A Catalyst in the Fight Against Obstetric Racism


( ENSPIRE She Did That ) Dr. Karen A. Scott Brings Attention to Obstetric Racism With Recent Collaboration

ENSPIRE Contributor: Megan Sydow

Obstetric racism affects birthing people across the United States. Because of this, Black birthing people face a mortality rate that is four times higher than white birthing people. By partnering with Boston Medical Center earlier this year, Dr. Karen A. Scott makes history in bringing awareness to and fighting against obstetric racism in the healthcare system.

Dr. Karen A. Scott is a Black scientist and prominent voice in the fight against healthcare disparities between BIPOC and white patients. One of her creations, SACRED Birth Study, is the first and only quality improvement program that responds to this issue during childbirth. The PREM-OB Scale, a tool that measures obstetric racism across demographics by looking at real-life experiences from Black birthing people, completes and validates the study.

Courtesy of Danielle Reid

She is the founder and lead researcher for Birthing Cultural Rigor, a program that recently partnered with Boston Medical Center. With this partnership, Dr. Scott hopes to eliminate the racial inequities of childbirth care between white and BIPOC patients. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted these disparities to Dr. Scott, and her team is working to expand those partnerships into state health departments, insurance companies and other hospitals.

Despite its prevalence, the public is largely unaware of obstetric racism. For centuries, Black women’s concerns have been overlooked, especially in terms of reproductive rights. Mistreatment in the OBGYN field ties back to slavery when Black women were used as guinea pigs for testings and procedures. This mistreatment, along with their concerns falling on deaf ears, are harming Black birthing people the most.

“There is a bias toward women and people of color without often realizing it in the medical field,” Dr.Scott said. “However, it is very evident in the outcomes of Black women and birthing people with death, hospitalization and illnesses in comparison to other groups.” 

Courtesy of Danielle Reid

Dr.Scott and her team say the first step in the right direction is not just realizing the problem, but accepting it and spreading awareness by implementing solutions like Birthing Cultural Rigor. The fight against maternal racism is not a new one, but it has remained vastly unacknowledged by the general public.

“Celebrities such as Venus Williams and Beyonce have spoken about their birthing experiences and issues [and] nothing has changed,” said Dr.Scott. “This lets us know that their concerns are not taken as seriously and needs to change.” 

With SACRED Birth Study and Birthing Cultural Rigor, Dr. Karen A. Scott has become a leading voice in the fight against obstetric racism. Her research tackles the neglected issue of racism during childbirth and aims to reduce the number of pregnancy-related deaths within the Black community. 

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