Meet Joel Bervell The “Medical MythBusters” Who Challenges Disparities In Healthcare

Joel Bervell is a Ghanaian American medical student that has acquired the a unique title before his doctorate as the “Medical Mythbuster.”

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Meet Joel Bervell The “Medical Mythbuster” Who Challenges Disparities In Healthcare
Joel Bervell of Elson S Floyd College of Medicine

With over 700K on TikTok’s trendy social platform, Joel Bervell studies at Washington State University Elson S Floyd’s College of Medicine, using his knowledge to challenge the standard discriminatory practices within United States healthcare. 

Bervell’s story began in January 2021 when a man named Kwame (not his real name) was diagnosed with COVID-19. As Bervell describes in an article for the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), Kwame’s condition quickly deteriorated in the following days. Seeking medical help, Kwame traveled to the emergency department in Oakland, California, where he underwent extensive testing to assess the severity of his illness. Despite Kwame’s worsening fever and breathing difficulties, the doctors advised him to go home and rest, believing him to be a “healthy and fit young man.”

Kwame refused to blindly follow the doctors’ advice to simply go home and rest, despite his worsening COVID-19 symptoms. Just weeks prior, Kwame had seen a video on social media that enlightened him about a critical issue with pulse oximeters – the medical devices used to measure blood oxygen levels. The video explained that pulse oximeters often provide inaccurate readings for patients with darker skin tones. This is because the increased melanin in darker skin absorbs more infrared light from the device, causing it to overestimate the oxygen saturation level. In fact, studies have shown that Black patients are over three times more likely than white patients to have their oxygen levels overestimated by pulse oximeters.


Replying to @leah_thebest0 Were Pulse Oximeters linked to higher mortality in darker skinned patients during COVID? The answer is yes. #racialbiasinmedicine #healthcare #nurse #doctor #medicalmythbusters #joelbervell

♬ Blade Runner 2049 – Synthwave Goose

After repeatedly voicing his concerns, Kwame was admitted into a hospital by his doctors and soon after moved into an intensive care unit and intubated due to his continually worsening condition.

How Joel Bervell Leverages Social Media for Community Impact

While social media can certainly contain misinformation and sensationalized content, in Kwame’s case, a video he saw on social media ended up playing a crucial role in saving his life. Bervell, the creator of the original social media video that informed Kwame, has since produced over 600 short educational videos on the topic of “Racial Bias in Medicine,” earning him the title of “Medical Mythbuster.” With an estimated 10% of the population now turning to the internet as a source for medical information, Bervell’s work highlights the critical need for reliable, accessible education on issues of bias and equity in healthcare.

Bervell hopes to create a legacy for Black men in medicine, as this underrepresented community often faces systemic oversights that can have serious consequences. While some may argue that the solution is to simply trust a doctor’s expertise, this overlooks the significant barriers that many Black patients face, including the high costs of even routine medical care and the clear issues of unreliable testing and dismissive attitudes within the healthcare system.


In medicine, there’s a prenatal blood test called an “alpha-fetoprotein test” that is recommended to every pregnant person; but it includes a race adjustment. 
Alpha-fetoprotein, or AFP, is used in prenatal screening to inform pregnant people about their risk for fetal abnormalities like Down Syndrome, Trisomy 18, and neural tube defects. But labs routined adjust the concentration of the protein that is looked for by 10% in Black patients, and only Black patients. That race adjustment could have disproportionately and incorrectly informed Black pregnant people that they were at higher or lower risks for different abnormalities. In 2023, a study analyzed the records of 27K patients between 2007-2020, 6% of whom identified as Black. After adjusting for maternal weight and gestational age, there was no difference found in alpha-fetoprotein values between Black & non-Black pregnant patients. It’s another example of the harms that race-based medicine can have. #joelbervell #racialbiasinmedicine #medicalschool #nursingschool #pregnancy #alphafetoprotein #healthequity

♬ original sound – joelbervell

Recognizing these systemic problems, Bervell decided that social media would be the most effective way for him to reach a wider audience and educate his community. This decision was reinforced when Bervell realized that his own medical school professors had failed to adequately address the extensive history of prejudice and racial bias entrenched within the medical field.

Princess McKey

Princess McKey, a dynamic film and content creator from Howard University's School of Communications, specializes in Television and Film. Experienced in independent student films, both behind and in front of the camera, I am deeply committed to the art of storytelling, ensuring active involvement from conception to completion of productions

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