These Sisters Are Doctors, HBCU Grads, and Encouraging Medical Literacy
No problem is too big when siblings put their heads together to think of solutions. Sisters Dr. Elita Wyckoff-Jones, M.D., and Dr. Shamolie Wyckoff, M.D., are both physicians and graduates of Spelman College. They've witnessed that being under-informed adds to communication issues and worsens outcomes for patients in medical settings. In response they wrote, With Ease: Navigating the Medical Office Visit, a guide to make it easier to navigate the medical system and increase medical literacy.
The pair didn't intend to write a book, initially, but decided to after realizing that not everyone had access to the insight they provided their loved ones with about medical experiences. They realized communication and understanding the system was essential in making things better. With Ease was published early in the pandemic so patients had an accessible resource to make sense of things.
"We are asked—by friends or family—different questions about when they're having their doctors' visits, or if a surgery is coming up, or just about medication questions," Dr. Wyckoff said during an interview on Making The Black Entrepreneur Podcast hosted by Eighth Anderson. "And after a while, we started saying, 'Maybe we could put this down on paper so that people could work from a guide or have it as a resource, anytime they want, on hand.'"
The sisters believe patients want and deserve clear, thoughtful, and caring communication in their medical experiences. They wrote With Ease with the information they gained in their years of practicing different disciples of medicine. The pair had to bridge their different patient populations, experiences, and perspectives. Dr. Wyckoff-Jones has been practicing as an OBGYN for 15 years. Her sister Dr. Wyckoff has practiced physical medicine and rehabilitation for 11 years.
The book aims to dissolve "communication barriers" between patients and doctors and make sure patients feel more informed, aware, and prepared to make decisions as they interact with their providers. It covers essential topics like understanding medication and potential side effects, different types of providers and what they do, and preparing for medical procedures.
It's not a secret that Black people have a complicated relationship with the medical industry. Having clear communication, being prepared, and being knowledgeable about your own body can quickly become a matter of life and death. Their efforts prove Black providers are often better prepared to support marginalized patients and the importance of ensuring all patients have resources to understand and provide consent during their medical experiences.
Dr. Wyckoff-Jones says it's essential for patients to feel like they are on an equal playing field during medical appointments. Their self-published work started as a guide to ensure patients knew which questions to ask, what different providers' titles meant, and what information to share to ensure the provider can help them. Everything, from the language to the book's length, was made to support patients' efforts to improve and control their health. It's only 10 chapters, replaces medical jargon with language "regular people" can understand, and has key points highlighted in each section.
The sisters hope With Ease helps patients feel more informed, prepared, and comfortable as they interact with the medical system. There's even an accompanying suggested playlist with Black music, including Bill Withers, Mali Music, and A Tribe Called Quest, so patients feel good as they read along. Dr. Wyckoff says she hopes this is an opportunity for each individual to gain a little bit more armor, gain another tool in their life toolkit in a time where it's easy to feel like a victim.
"We put all this effort into when we look and when we eat; why not into what makes it powerful, which is how our bodies function," Dr. Wyckoff says. "It starts with becoming self-aware and starts with making it a priority and we wanted to start their process and say, 'Hey, we're not holding anything back we want you to succeed, not everybody's out to get you.'"