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Bioethics, Race, and Healthcare

6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

Tyler Haynes Commons, Alice Haynes Room
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Dr. Joan Harrell & Dr. Wylin Wilson from Tuskegee University, along with leadership studies professor Julian Hayter, lead a conversation on bioethics, health policy and race.

The main purpose of this forum is to provide a venue for the examination and discussion of some of the leading causes and consequences of the significant racial health disparities in the U.S. It is also intended to address the bioethical argument posed by various scholars that “we should work to eliminate these health disparities because their existence is a moral wrong that needs to be addressed.”

Special attention will be given to the infamous U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study in black men, which occurred in Tuskegee, Alabama from 1932-1972. This 40-year U.S. governmental experiment disrupted a slow convergence of black health outcomes with white health outcomes in the mid-20th century and substantially increased the level of mistrust in medical institutions that still exists in many black communities and other vulnerable populations today. A recent John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study posited, “patients must trust that individual health care providers are competent and will have their best interest in mind while making treatment decisions.”

This forum will explore how the United States Public Health Service Syphilis Study in Tuskegee led to the development of what has become modern medical ethics. Anticipated outcomes are a better understanding of the historical impact of the unethical Syphilis Study in Tuskegee and a renewed collective and personal commitment to counteract the racial disparities that exist in U.S. healthcare today.

For more information contact Rick Mayes at or Linda Boland at