In the wake of the recent Black Lives Matter movement, companies, individuals, and institutions are taking a long, reflective look at their biases, policies, and inequalities, in an effort to stand together against systematic racism. The fertility industry is no different.
Enter Chiquita Lockley who realized that none of her friends were ever talking about fertility, infertility, and fibroids, so she decided to make a documentary, Eggs Over Easy. Her upcoming film features interviews with black women and physicians who discuss the jarring racial disparity in healthcare, the stigma of infertility, and need for advocacy and change.
In today’s episode, Chiquita shares some of her findings, like how black women have a 243% maternal mortality rate, and how doctors are quicker to dismiss black women’s concerns, sometimes fatally.
Guests: Chiquita Lockley, filmmaker, Dr. Alan Copperman, Medical Director at Progyny
Host: Dan Bulger
You can watch the trailer for Eggs Over Easy here, and keep an eye on the website for upcoming screening dates.
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Here are some highlights from this episode:
The Shocking Statistics
3:48 – 5:22
Dan Bulger: In just about 90 minutes, the film manages to take a sincere and compassionate focus on a variety of issues facing black women today and throughout the years. There are parts about egg freezing, insemination, IVF, adoption, surrogacy and even childfree by choice. And while the film was initially meant to be a short film targeting black women of reproductive age, the target audience grew to include a completely different demographic.
Chiquita Lockley: Once I realized the film was going to be bigger, I thought we had to use this to also educate doctors. Once we started looking at maternal mortality, that black women have a 243% maternal mortality rate, like we died three times more often than a white woman who’s having a baby, we realized that is a doctor’s issue.
Dan Bulger: That statistic that black women die three to four times more often than white women while giving birth is absolutely jarring. But it’s not the only place where our health care system comes up significantly short for black women. And this film does a very good job of talking about many of the issues that need to be corrected.
Chiquita Lockley: There are several reasons why a woman may not be able to have a baby or have some problems conceiving; one of the biggest issues in the black community is fibroids. 80% of black women will have fibroids by the age of 50. That number is astronomical. And just to be clear, 70% for white women will also have fibroids, so there’s not a huge gap. The difference is in the treatment of these fibroids, so when 80% of black women have fibroids, the default solution to that is hysterectomy.
Health Professionals Dismissing Black Women
6:21 – 9:07
Dan Bulger: Why are black women treated differently in medicine?
Chiquita Lockley: There was a 2016 study that examined this and found that not only are physicians not listening to black women, it’s like this unconscious bias, or this implicit bias. I’m just from living in, in this country living in the Western world, where when you look in a magazine or at a TV show, we’re not humanized in the same way, and traditionally, we have not been humanized the same way. So you could have a physician who is not a racist, but there’s an implicit bias there.
An example of this is Serena Williams. She has millions of dollars, she has tons of followers on social media – she is a woman of influence! And when she had her baby, she was clotting, which was something that hadn’t happened to her before. So, she tells the doctors and nurses she is clotting and could possibly die, and they’re like “no, you’re okay”. But she was right and they eventually ran the tests and realized she was right.
So, if this happening to a woman with such influence and wealth, what is happening to a regular woman? It means it doesn’t matter how much money you have, it doesn’t matter how much education you have, it doesn’t matter who you know, your skin is black and that’s what they’re going to see first, and you’re going to be treated horribly many times, and that is how we get to a 243% maternal mortality rate.
Black Lives Matter. Black Fertility Matters. Black Mothers Matter.
16:30 – 17:11
Dan Bulger: I think all of us have some work to do in order to be better. But when it comes to medicine, fertility and maternity in the black community, lives are at stake. And we need to be better today, tomorrow. And every day after that. Black Lives Matter is being spoken about now more than perhaps ever before. But we can’t give lip service today and just move on from the conversation tomorrow. We have to stay dedicated and keep working for real, tangible change. You’ll know it when you see it. The numbers won’t lie.
Dan has been in the healthcare industry for the last six years as a multimedia content producer. Better known as ‘Video Dan’ he as interviewed numerous doctors, patients and other experts in the world of fertility. He’s also the producer for this podcast, This is Infertility. On a personal note Dan’s parents started fostering kids when he was four years old, and he considers himself a proud older brother to over 100 foster children.
Chiquita Lockley is producer and director of the forthcoming documentary, Eggs Over Easy: Black Women & Fertility (2020). She is also the producer of the award-winning documentary Kunta Kinteh Island: Coming Home Without Shackles (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWGDBeW5BDA). She holds a BA in English from Spelman College and an MA in Film Studies from Emory University. She specializes in Live Event Production, providing creative direction and VFX design for: BET Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, Hank Aaron Chasing The Dream Foundation, and production management for artists’ tours/events featuring: Tasha Cobbs (TCM), Matt Redman, William Murphy, Kierra Sheard, Fantasia, PJ Morton of Maroon 5, Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child, and many others. After Hurricane Matthew, she produced a concert benefitting Haiti for TCM, which featured Vashawn Mitchell, Anthony Brown, Jonathan McReynolds, and surprise guest Kirk Franklin. Additionally, Chiquita develops strategies and produces commercials and branded content for a variety of companies, including Volkswagen. She also supports corporate activations as a Project Manager and Show Director. She made her theatrical debut as playwright of the musical Kandi Burruss & Todd Tucker Present: A Mother’s Love. Scenes from the musical, starring Kandi, Eddie Levert, Shirley Murdock, and Porsha Williams were featured on the season finale of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”. Additionally, she served as the Director of the Holyfield Foundation, during Evander Holyfield’s reign as Heavyweight Champion of the World. She has worked with faith-based organizations like Impact United Methodist Church and consulted for nonprofit organizations for celebrity clients including: Keshia Knight Pulliam, CNN’s Isha Sesay, Cynthia Bailey of RHOA, Jovita Moore, at al. Having spent the last 15+ years working in Faith-based television and media, Chiquita authored the book Creative Worship: 86 Tips for Establishing a Dynamic Worship, Media & Production Team. She is also the author of children’s book, Maggie Tales: Mommy, Where’s Heaven?, which seeks to demystify the Circle of Life for children and parents alike. She has the distinction of Goodwill Ambassador for the State of Georgia, awarded by former Secretary of State Cathy Cox. She currently resides in Atlanta, GA where she continues to give back by serving on the Boards of AIR Serenbe and Black Women Film Network, and as an advisor for the youth arts initiative, How Big Is Your Dream?.
Dr. Alan Copperman is a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist with a long history of success in treating infertility and applying fertility preservation technologies. He serves as Medical Director of Progyny, a leading fertility benefits management company, and co-founded and serves as Medical Director of RMA of New York, one of the largest and most prestigious IVF centers in the country. Dr. Copperman is also the Vice Chairman and Director of Infertility for the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Chief Medical Officer of Sema4, a health information company. Dr. Copperman has been named to New York magazine’s list of Best Doctors 18 years in a row. He has been recognized by his peers and patient advocacy organizations for his commitment to patient-focused and data-driven care. He has published more than 100 original manuscripts and book chapters on reproductive medicine and has co-authored over 400 scientific abstracts on infertility, in vitro fertilization, egg freezing, ovum donation, and reproductive genetics.
Music From This Episode:
Artist: Kai Engel
Artist: Lee Rosevere
Track: All the Answers
Track: Small Steps
Track: What Have You Done