Celebrating Two Years of Normalizing Brown Breasts
Have I ever told you how I ended up creating The Melanated Mammary Atlas? It seems fitting to share it here as we celebrate
the tool becoming a toddler. It all really happened organically. Three and a half years ago, I was asked to prepare a talk for the GOLD Online Lactation Conference. By then, I had already shared with GOLD audiences twice, and If I'm being honest, I had already given them all my best stuff! As is often the case with conferences, GOLD wanted something fresh, new, and insightful for their audience. So, off I went on a quest to figure out what question I wished someone would answer or problem I wished someone would solve. I knew in there, somewhere I would find a topic that hadn’t yet been covered, at least not in the way I would.
On a call with a colleague a few days later the issue of brown skin and assessing lactation conditions came up. This was a common topic among lactation supporters since we all had, at one time or another, asked around for a picture of this or
hat on brown skin as we just didn’t have access to many through our texts. It was common knowledge that such images were rare to see, and thus the quest to find one was never-ending. Of course, this conversation sparked a thought about this being a potential topic for GOLD. I pitched the idea to them, and the rest is history! That talk, titled “Breast Assessment in Non-White Skin Tones” is still one of their most-watched webinars to date. It led to conversations with folks around the globe who were desperate for images to better understand and support communities of color. Some also started sending me images randomly, entrusting me to create whatever the solution would be for us all. I didn't take this responsibility lightly. Misdiagnosis, missed diagnosis, and medical neglect are real and are real contributors to the Black maternal health crisis in this country. I knew getting this right could be game-changing for the level of care provided to families, and be part of the broader solution landscape worldwide.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I really thought the final “product” would be some sort of publicly accessible… Google document or similar. In the beginning, I had no idea that it would take a year of intense technical planning and development, a team of software engineers, the generosity of a few amazing IBCLCs, lots of patience, ingenuity, strategy, and well, money to bring the MM Atlas to fruition. Not to mention a circle of advisors and lawyers and experts in things I didn’t even know existed! How else could we have created the world’s largest database of images of conditions of the breast/chest, with search and filter capability, in a secure environment, and all powered by the global community of practitioners and the public to expand provider awareness and improve care for all? How else could we have started a global movement, igniting individuals and organizations all over the world to pitch in and help create lasting change, one image at a time? Like you, I didn't see it coming, but I'm so glad it's here.
I think that’s something worth celebrating! Here’s to two years down, and many more to go re-envisioning diagnostics, transforming support, and normalizing brown breasts®.