During Black History Month, Melanin Medics have had the privilege of interviewing influential individuals who are doing extraordinary work for the black community, within the field of medicine. This week we had the pleasure of talking to Dr Kaylita Chantiluke: a paediatric registrar in Melbourne and the organisations lead of dftbskindeep.com.
Please kindly introduce yourself and what you do?
My name is Dr Kaylita Chantiluke and I’m currently a paediatric registrar in Melbourne, Australia. I am the organisations lead at @dftbskindeep, an initiative aimed to provide a free, open-access bank to photographs of medical conditions in the paediatric population in a range of skin tones; led by Don’t Forget The Bubbles (DFTB) and Royal London Hospital (RLH). I also have a blog with over 13,000 total views @musings_of_a_black_medic, https://kaylitac.wixsite.com/website.
Tell me a bit more about your journey into medicine
I know it’s a bit cliché, but I’ve always wanted to do Medicine, and I’ve always wanted to be a paediatrician. I would say this stemmed from a drive that I’ve always had from primary school, and this was useful as it guided my GCSE and A-level choices. My mum is also a paediatric nurse, so I’d spend time on the wards with her and her colleagues, whenever my father, my sisters and I would pick her up at the end of her shift. Most children find hospitals scary, but I’ve always felt comfortable in the hospital environment.
I did pre-clinical Medicine and went onto study Medicine at the University of Oxford. It was here that I noticed that I was a woman of colour in a very white dominated space. After my preclinical years, I deferred the remainder of my degree to do a PhD in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, focusing mainly on neuroimaging, at King’s College London.
What inspired you to contribute to these initiatives/projects?
The Skin Deep project started as part of DFTB in 2020, by a team of paediatric emergency doctors in both Royal London Hospital and Sunshine Hospital in Australia. It is a global initiative with 300 images and over 20 submissions every day. I felt passionate about getting involved as I was astutely aware of the effects of racism in healthcare and the need for more diverse skin in medical educational resources. Skin Deep is a unique organisation as it focuses specifically on paediatric dermatological presentations. We are also fortunate enough to have links all over the world which enable us to include images of skin conditions and their presentations in a wide range of skin tones, including Indigenous Australians. My role is getting different organisations on board to support us and provide images e.g. Royal College of Paediatric and Child Health, British Association of Dermatologists, British Skin Foundation, Black Medical Society, Societi, the UK Kawasaki Disease Foundation, Eczema Association Australia and many more.
I started my blog in January 2020. I have always been creative from a literary point of view and I had lots of thoughts on various topics which I felt needed a creative outlet. I write on topics such as medicine, racism and feminism as well as their intersectionality. I’ve had over 13,000 collective views on my most popular blog posts “Why the Best Medical Students Make the Worst Doctors” and “Sorry, But I Want a White Doctor”.
What has been the most rewarding part of these projects so far?
The most rewarding aspect of being organisations lead for Skin Deep is seeing how many people are using it as an educational resource, like my own work colleagues and the organisations we’re working with. We’re creating a resource that is unlike any others out there, as it is specific to paediatrics. I’ve actually used the resource myself when working in the paediatric ED, where I found myself treating a dark skinned child with a burn. I remember researching “superficial burn black skin” and being faced with endless results of burns on pale skin. Using Skin Deep helped me in this situation, and showed me how my own work is changing my own practice. It’s such a vital resource.
In terms of my blog, the most rewarding part of it is knowing that something I created has had the ability to change peoples’ minds and thought processes for the better. I have even had people reach out to me and say, “I really needed to hear that today”. Those positive words make me feel empowered to change systems in place that make things difficult for people of colour (POC).
So what does a typical week look like for you?
It’s still a strict lockdown in Melbourne in response to COVID so things are a little different than usual. My typical week includes 4-5 10hr shifts a week on paediatric medicine. I’m also heavily involved in academic research and currently doing a neonatal hypothyroidism audit, in addition to working on several other papers pertaining to race and racism within medicine. I normally spend the rest of my time working on my commitments at Skin Deep, where I manage a subcommittee team. I enjoy exercising 3 or 4 times a week and I have also been learning Spanish for 2 years. Other than that, I am revising for Part 2 of my paediatrics exam!
How are you able to balance this with your work commitments?
My system involves the psychological process of intervention – counselling. I would recommend it to everybody. We always look after our body. Going to the gym or going for runs is normalised, and if you ask someone why they’re exercising they’ll usually respond and say it’s preventative i.e. to maintain physical health. I think we should do the same with our mental health. Since doing counselling I have been able to reflect upon how I can give myself time to rest despite my busy schedule. Often, I have to check myself and ask myself – why are you doing this particular “To Do” task? Is this important and do you need to do it right now, or could you take some time for yourself? I find that, as medics, most of us are overachievers and leave little time to relax. We work so hard that I think if we want a day where we want to sit and watch Netflix and chill, we should be allowed!
Where do you see yourself and/or your project in the next 10 years?
Wow. That’s a good question. In 10 years, I see myself in Scotland doing academic paediatric neurology, split between clinical and research. I also see myself married, with a nice family and a nice little life! In 10 years, I hope Skin Deep can be the equivalent of paediatric DermNetNZ in regard to its scope and popularity. I hope it will provide a unique paediatric angle and be significantly more diverse than existing educational resources. We are hoping to get to the stage where we will have a range of skin tones for each condition – from lightest to darkest, to show a spectrum of what the disease may look like. I also imagine we’ll be using a lot more advanced technology to fit in with the current direction the ‘digital world’ is heading in.
What developments in medicine would you like to see in the next 10 years?
I’d like to see significant structural changes made to decolonise the healthcare system and make it a more equitable place for POC who are patients and/or working in the healthcare system. I feel like there’s been a lot of chat – but this is nothing if it’s not followed by action. When I’m a professor of paediatric neurology, I hope to look out and see a lecture theatre that’s representative of whichever country I am working in. I hope to see people of all skin colours and socio-economic backgrounds. I hope to see students with physical disabilities that do not have to sit isolated at the top of the lecture theatre because of their wheelchair. I hope to see individuals that can wear clothing that fits their gender identity, and to wear that with pride. I would like for everyone to have the same opportunities regardless of their background or circumstances.
If you have any advice for our current medical students and aspiring medics, what would it be?
I have done a lot – achieved an intercalated PhD, moved to Israel to volunteer in Nazareth hospital and moved to Australia. Yet, through all of this, my word of advice would stay the same for everybody – you are enough. It’s taken a lot of time for me to come to this realisation as a lot of the time I think we believe our self-worth and productivity are intertwined, which should not be the case. Medicine is wonderful and tough, but remember, whichever test you fail or whichever job you don’t get, you are enough. As you are, and right now, you are enough. You are valuable and important.
What is the best way to support or get involved with your project?
Promo would be super helpful! Please spread the word about Skin Deep, especially if you know anyone who is eligible or able to submit pictures, as anyone from the public can submit pictures. We also rely a lot on other hospitals for collaborations, so if you’re a medical student and you are interested in getting involved, please get in touch with a doctor or potential supervisor while you’re on placement and let them know about the work we’re doing! It would also be helpful if you would check out my blog @musings_of_a_black_medic and share with friends, colleagues, and people. I also have multiple journal article publications on ADHD/Autism which you can find on PubMed if you’re interested!
With thanks to Dr Kaylita Chantiluke for taking the time to chat to us, keep doing the amazing work you're doing!