Dr. Constants Adams Is Creating a Safe Space For Patients of Color as an Ob-Gyn


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There are so many aspects of health that disproportionately affect the Black community, and yet less than six percent of US doctors are Black — a deficit that only further harms public health. Many of the Black folks who work in healthcare have dedicated their careers to combatting inequities. That’s why, this Black History Month, PS is crowning our Black Health Heroes: physicians, sexologists, doulas, and more who are advocating for the Black community in their respective fields. Meet them all here.

For Constants Adams, MD, becoming a doctor felt like her destiny.

The Detroit native vividly remembers growing up in a home her mother managed for women fighting HIV and drug addiction at the height of the AIDS epidemic in the early ’90s, where she witnessed health disparities firsthand. She knew then she’d pursue a career in medicine, with a keen focus on underserved communities.

Fast-forward to today, and the 34-year-old obstetrician-gynecologist specializes in many facets of the field — but is particularly known for her work on fibroid treatment — at Northwestern OB.GYN Consultants, which is affiliated with the prestigious Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. Dr. Connie, as she’s affectionately known on her Instagram page, is a light within a field that has a hauntingly dark past built on harming Black women’s bodies.

In 2020, she and her residency team made history as the first known all-Black, all-women ob-gyn resident team at Northwestern Medicine — marking a more diverse future that’s necessary for the field. Dr. Adams says her mom, who shares her name, could not be more proud of the work her daughter is doing to make women’s healthcare more accessible.

We talked to Dr. Adams about her career journey, advocating for your reproductive health, how social media aids patient care, and more.

POPSUGAR: You are passionate about advocating for historically excluded communities and women’s health specifically. Why is that important, in your words?

Constants Adams: For so long, people of color have been the target of a lot of practices that are less than ideal. One of the fathers of gynecology, J. Marion Sims, was known for operating on domestic slave women. With how much Black maternal morbidity and mortality there’s been, then looking at how people don’t feel they have someone who looks like them, who can understand them, who shares a similar culture and similar background — [that’s] how they can feel very ostracized and unheard. I always wanted to make sure I could provide a space for women of color to be able to be that person who sees them, hears them, looks like them, and is possibly going to experience some of the same fears.

One of the reasons I have such an interest in fibroids and their impact on women of color is that it’s very common for women of color to either not be heard or to not present with symptoms of fibroids until their fibroids are very large. One of my goals is always to be able to provide the safest procedure, but then also catching symptoms and signs that many people may brush off a lot sooner.

PS: Since you’ve started in the field, would you say you’ve noticed a difference in care for women of color?

CA: One of the beautiful things about social media is that people are talking about things that they never were talking about beforehand. It wasn’t always a topic of discussion to talk about how you’re having heavy bleeding and how you have fibroids at brunch. Now because of social media, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and all the other forms of social media, people are talking about their symptoms. They’re finding out more information.

“[S]eeing patients when you walk into a room and they see somebody who looks like them — their responses were everything.”

Many people have access to these forms of social media; that kind of helps level the playing field. As a result, what I’ve noticed is that I’ll have people who come to me because they’ve seen either my social media or they’ve had a friend who had similar symptoms and was diagnosed with fibroids. We’re able to start interventions sooner, so their symptoms are being managed more effectively. So I don’t think that there’s been a particular change necessarily in how we manage fibroids for women of color, but I do know there’s been a lot of research and technologies that have come about that we can offer to people when they’re presenting [their symptoms] earlier.

PS: You were a member of the first all-Black ob-gyn residency team at Northwestern. Can you talk more about that experience?

CA: There weren’t that many Black doctors, period, much less Black ob-gyn residents, and seeing how proud people were and how supportive they were of us was phenomenal. Then seeing patients when you walk into a room and they see somebody who looks like them — their responses were everything. We’d have people crying; we’d have people clapping. You have grandmothers walking up to us just saying how proud they were. You had members of the staff who would just walk up, and they’d be so proud of us. [That residency team was] some of the most intelligent, amazing women that I’ve ever been around before. I was very honored.

By June 2024, the entire team will have graduated on time and will all be going out into the community, advocating for people who look like us.

The trust plays a major role, too. We know that birth can be such a stress. It can be a beautiful time. It can also be an incredibly stressful time. [Some people] are very distrustful of the medical system, with good reason based on how medicine has historically treated people of color. One of the things I notice most immediately is how when you walk into another Black woman’s room or a Latina’s room or you’re walking into someone’s room when they’re a person of color and they see you, you can see their shoulders just relax a little bit more when you walk in. There’s almost that automatic trust.

PS: Reproductive rights is a hot-button topic right now. How do you inform your patients or empower your patients to protect themselves now in today’s political climate?

CA: I tell all my patients to make sure they do their own research and if they have questions, I’d rather them ask me than go on Google or a non-reputable site. I’m a big believer in providing people with the tools for them to educate themselves. I also strongly believe in equipping people to make their own choices, whether that be around pregnancy, contraception, or all the above. I always encourage people to save the TikTok, save the Instagram Reel, and bring it with them to my office so we can look at it. Then, I can show you the evidence for why I would agree or not agree with it.

PS: What impact do you think you’re making in terms of redefining the field?

CA: I’d like to think that I am providing a space for women to feel seen and to feel heard — and to feel safe in particular. I’d like to think that I’m providing holistic care. I’m always talking about anxiety and depression because it shows up differently in people of color. Let’s get you a referral, let’s get you into therapy, let’s get medication. So I would like to think that I’m giving them a safe space.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Lenora Houseworth is a multi-creative copywriter and journalist who focuses on wellness, beauty, gender, and social justice. She is based in the New York City area. She is a passionate journalist whose work can be seen at places like GLAAD.org, Black Enterprise, Ideas.TED, Teen Vogue, Essence, HelloBeautiful, Allure, and more.

Image Source: Constants Adams

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