Black women dying in childbirth focus of ‘Aftershock’ screening

Published March 21, 2023

UB is holding a free, public screening of the film “Aftershock,” a documentary that brings to light the disturbing fact that Black women in the U.S. die in childbirth — often from entirely preventable causes — at rates three to four times that of their white counterparts.

The film is presented from the viewpoint of two men who lost their wives to preventable deaths in childbirth and the movement they joined to reverse this tragic trend.

The screening will take place from 5-8 p.m. March 27 in the Active Learning Classroom on the first floor of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB. It will be followed by facilitated roundtable discussions among attendees. Light refreshments will be provided by Brothers Catering. Registration includes a virtual option to watch the film; a virtual film viewing code will be sent via email.

The discussion will be in-person only.

The idea to hold the screening came as a recommendation from Demetra McILwain, now a physician with Jericho Road Community Health Center, when she was a UB family medicine resident last year and a Social Justice and Equity Fellow in Graduate Medical Education at the Jacobs School. Her project was to develop an obstetrics and gynecology curriculum for family medicine residents.

While McILwain was reporting on her project and discussing with colleagues the high rates of Black maternal mortality and morbidity, she challenged physician leaders to watch the screening to broaden their understanding of the issue. The school decided to host the screening to raise awareness in the local medical community.

“We have this crisis and we’re not collaboratively talking about how to address it,” says Susan Orrange, assistant dean for education and resident services in the Office of Graduate Medical Education.

“The conversations are happening in separate spaces because physicians often learn and talk about things within their own specialties,” Orrange says, “but this is not an obstetrics and gynecology problem. It’s a health care problem and a societal problem.

“This is an event for everyone in all the medical and health care specialties, and the public, to come together. It’s important to keep having conversations about equity and social determinants of health, and to talk about actions we can take to address the issue.”

Orrange adds that those efforts contributed to last year’s “Black Men in White Coats” film screening and discussion