Guest: Jessica Isom, MD, MPH
Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSW
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In this episode, I talk with Dr. Jessica Isom, a board-certified community psychiatrist, who practices clinically in the federally qualified health center Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester, Massachusetts. She is also involved in graduate medical education and health care workforce development in her role as a clinical instructor in the Yale University Department of Psychiatry, which has inspired many invited talks and workshops around social justice and health equity. Additionally, Dr. Isom is a physician-entrepreneur who owns the consulting business Vision for Equity LLC that focuses on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), antiracism, and racial equity. We talk about how in medicine and mental health, race, specifically being Black-identified, is typically discussed as a risk-factor for ill health when racism is the root and primary risk factor. Dr. Isom explains that this approach pathologizes Blackness, as it’s intended to, and directs interventions and treatment in ways that do harm and perpetuate racism by incorrectly explaining health disparities as individual and biological rather than rooted in the systemic racism that creates inequity, stress, barriers to access, poor treatment, and that intersects with many other social determinants of health. She further details how this approach of pathologizing Blackness is deficit focused and promotes a deficit-based ideology and approach to addressing health disparities and the overall well-being of Black people. We talk about how whiteness and Western/Eurocentricity shows up in mental health, including the DSM, and Dr. Isom shares how she navigates this in her clinical work. She also shares her thoughts on Black healing and joy. I hope this conversation inspires you to action.