After undergoing a skull surgery last month, India Marshall removed her bandages to find that her dark, voluminous curls, had been braided neatly. The braids, which she presumed were done by her nurses, made it easier for her to clean her incision without her hair getting in the way.
During her follow up visit with Dr. Jewel Greywoode, the Black surgeon who’d removed a benign bone growth on her forehead, she learned that he had braided her hair. “That was a shock for me,” said Marshall in a recent interview.
“Once I took the [surgical] cap off, I saw that she had thick, dark, curly hair like my daughters’ hair,” said Greywoode, who spends “curl nights” at home with his wife braiding his three daughters’ hair.
“I undid the braids just where I needed to get access, and afterward I used staples, because every time you use stitches you tend to cut hair. Nobody wants to have their hair cut or shaved,” he continued.
“About a week later, she came in, and I took the staples out and said, ‘These braids look a little better than mine.’ And then she kind of looked up at me like, What?”
Marshall said the simple gesture of the doctor’s wanting to preserve her hair “was really special,” and it’s also uncommon.
The lack of cross-cultural training mixed with racist attitudes in healthcare can be unnerving for Black patients—and deter them from seeking medical services. Marshall’s recent experience, however, has had an opposite effect and inspired more women to seek Black health care providers.
A viral tweet in which she recalls the unbelievable moment garnered responses from many Black people saying they’d never thought about seeking out a Black doctor, but they would after hearing her story.
“I feel like there is a level of care and connection with Black doctors and Black patients that we don’t necessarily always get,” noted Marshall.
For Greywoode, it was about the importance of making people feel seen.
“The person that you are interacting with is an actual person, a family member or somebody else,” he said, noting that bringing awareness to this is very timely for what’s happening in our country right now. “And you don’t necessarily have to expect a viral reaction. But it definitely is important.”