Ogugua Obi, MD: Gender and Racial Barriers in Sarcoidosis


Sarcoidosis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease characterized by formations of tiny cell clusters known as granulomas. The granulomas often present in the lungs and lymph nodes, but can also occur in the heart, eyes, skin, and other organs.

This rare disease primarily affects African American women. For perspective, sarcoidosis occurs in African Americans 3 times as much as it does in Caucasians. And then, African American women are 1.5 times more likely to be affected by it than African American men.

Unfortunately, it doesn't stop there. In addition to it appearing more frequently in African American women than any other population, it also tends to be more severe when it presents.

Ogugua Obi, MD, MPH, MSc, is an expert at treating this rare disease and has observed the limitations that come along with it. In an interview with HCPLive®, she articulated what the racial and gender disparities associated with the condition mean for many autoimmune disease patients and the Ignore No More campaign launched in their honor.

"[African American women] are, you know, 10 to 18 times more likely to be hospitalized, either for the disease, its complications, or the complications of therapy." Obi said. "They are 12 times more likely to die than their Caucasian counterparts from the disease. So, just based on all of these evidence of disparities of care affecting African American women, the foundation of sarcoidosis research, FSR, launched this campaign to improve knowledge about this disease."

She also shared her own personal experiences with patients who have inspired her throughout her career. She's witnessed many of them attempt to manage their care and symptoms while also confronting racial and gender barriers.

"This barrier is magnified multiple times over for African American women," she said. "So certainly, this population faces a lot of barriers to their care."

The Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research (FSR) launched the Ignore No More: African American Women & Sarcoidosis (AAWS) Campaign to address these disparities by engaging our sarcoidosis community – patients and providers – to better understand how sarcoidosis impacts African American women, according to their website.

Obi is a pulmonary and critical care physician and the director of the Sarcoidosis Center of Excellence at East Carolina University (ECU) where she also teaches medicine. Additionally, Obi serves on the Women of Color Clinical Committee and the Scientific Advisory Board of the Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research (FSR).

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