VOICES FROM INSIDE THE SYSTEM

‘We All Deserve Equal Access to Health Care’

This rheumatologist is working against a health care system plagued by implicit bias and inherent discrimination

Melinda Fakuade
GEN
Published in
6 min readAug 21, 2020

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Photo: PickStock/Getty Images

Voices From Inside the System is a new GEN series where we interview people who have had firsthand experience in industries with especially fraught histories of systemic racism and inequity. We asked our subjects to think deeply about the role they played and the work they did. We asked them why they stayed or why they left, how they might be complicit, and if they thought they — or anyone — could fundamentally change the system.

Magdalena Cadet, 44, is a rheumatologist based in New York committed to educating Black women about their health. Racial disparities in health care often lead to fatal outcomes for Black women. Pregnancy-related deaths are four to five times higher for Black women than white. And studies show as much as 60% of those deaths could have been prevented. Cadet spoke with journalist Melinda Fakuade about how the health care system fails its patients of color.

I was close to 30 years old by the time I completed my medical training. My dad’s a doctor, and I have a few family members who are doctors. I just remember looking at him when I was younger, thinking how much he enjoyed improving people’s quality of life. As I got older, I knew that I wanted to do the same. I was a competitive figure skater, dancer, and athlete, so rheumatology deals with conditions involving the bones and joints and muscles. I was amazed at how the body could repair itself, but also intrigued by the immune system and how they are great in attacking viral viruses. But it can also turn against itself, leading to autoimmune diseases.

When I was in medical school, I met a young girl who was diagnosed with lupus. She was African American and in her twenties. Because of her lack of education about the autoimmune disease, she passed away at an early age from…

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Melinda Fakuade
GEN
Writer for

Melinda Fakuade is a culture writer in New York. Her work has appeared in The Outline, The Cut, Vox, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter @melindafakuade