Commemorating the 21st anniversary of the 1997 Presidential Apology for
the U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee will serve as a
capstone for this week’s 7th Annual Public Health Ethics Intensive Course.
The four-day course, held on the Tuskegee University campus April 10-13,
will address historical topics relating to bioethics and the resulting
issues of trust and access to public health networks among underserved
“Ethics across Generations” is the theme for the 7th Annual Public Health
Ethics Intensive Course, hosted by the Tuskegee University’s National
Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care. Conference activities
will be held in the Bioethics Auditorium of the university’s John A.
Kenney Hall — ending with a commemoration luncheon at noon on Friday.
“This conference, like the center itself, strives to promote contemporary
racial and ethnic equity through various spheres of ethics, as well as the
lens of past instances of social injustice and ongoing health care
debates,” said Dr. Rueben Warren, the center’s director and a professor in
bioethics. “Stressing the importance of commemorating the president’s
apology for the syphilis study among students, scholars, practitioners and
the public is just one way this annual course seeks to increase trust
while avoiding events like this in the future.”
The Public Health Ethics Intensive Course provides participants with both
academically and professionally rigorous content focused on the theory and
practice of various spheres of ethics. These spheres include public health
ethics, pragmatic bioethics, care ethics, and research ethics — focusing
specifically on the influence of race and ethnicity, gender and sex,
income, class and geographical location.
Dr. David Hodge, the center’s associate director of education and an
associate professor in the National Bioethics Center, emphasized that the
course is not limited to health care professionals and researchers, but
open to all scientific, academic, policy administrators, faith leadership
and community advocates. It is suited for anyone whose work helps to
enforce and protect the research principles of informed consent,
confidentiality, privacy and public policy, social justice and how they
apply in both qualitative and quantitative research. Those attending the
entire course will qualify for up to 22.5 contact hours for continuing
“Through various presentations and interactive discussions, the course
will explore relationships with social justice and the needs of
individuals, groups and communities locally, nationally and globally —
especially vulnerable and susceptible populations,” Hodge said.
The four-day course will feature more than 20 speakers and moderators who
will share their perspectives on topics ranging from ethics and
misinformation to mass incarceration. The presenters include, but not
Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu’s opening plenary session on Tuesday will address
the topic of ethics and miseducation. He is an author, and founder and
president of African American Images. The Chicago-based publishing
company sponsors dozens of workshops helping educators and parents
develop practical solutions to the problems of child-rearing in what he
perceives to be a racist society.
Dr. Randall Bailey, who will provide a response to Dr. Chu Chu
Onwuachi-Sanders’ ethics and reproductive justice session on Tuesday.
Bailey currently was the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Hebrew Bible
at Atlanta’s Interdenominational Theological Center, as well as
researcher who examines the intersections of race, gender, class,
sexuality, nationality and power in biblical text. Onwuachi-Sanders is a
pediatrician and medical epidemiologist.
Dr. Alicia Georges, RN, FAAN, will provide a response to Dr. Carl Hill’s
presentation on ethics, eldercare and quality of life on Thursday. In
addition to her role as AARP’s president-elect, she serves as a professor
and chair of the Department of Nursing at Lehman College and the Graduate
Center of the City University of New York. She also is president of the
National Black Nurses Foundation and a past president of the National
Black Nurses Association. Hill serves as director of the National
Institute on Aging’s Office of Special Populations.
Dr. Rosetta Ross’ presentation on Thursday will address the concept of
connecting ethics across generations. She is a professor of religion at
Spelman College, an author and a United Methodist clergywoman.
Online conference registration remains open at www.tuskegeebioethics.org,
or attendees can register onsite upon their arrival. Registration options
and pricing include full-conference attendance to single-day attendance.
Special pricing for students, Macon County residents and faith-based
organization representatives also is available. The website also provides
an updated conference schedule-at-a-glance.
The course will conclude at noon on Friday, April 13, with the
commemorative luncheon marking the 21st anniversary of the 1997 U.S.
Presidential Apology for the U.S. Public Health Service’s Syphilis Study
at Tuskegee. The luncheon will feature descendants of Tuskegee Syphilis
Study subjects, who following the 1997 apology established the Voices for
Our Fathers Legacy Foundation. The foundation is dedicated to honoring the
unconsented study participants as well as preserving history and enriching
education in clinical and public health research. Separate registration
for the Commemoration Luncheon is available as part of online
The “United States Public Health Service Tuskegee Study of Untreated
Syphilis in the Negro Male,” spanning from 1932 to 1972, is the longest
and the most immoral health and medical treatment study ever conducted in
U.S. history. This non-therapeutic study of the progress of untreated
syphilis in human beings recruited poor African-American men living in
rural Tuskegee and Macon County, Alabama, by keeping them uninformed of
their syphilis status and untreated for the disease — all without their
informed consent. Naturally, the physical mistreatment and non-treatment
for syphilis contributed to generational health problems, as well as ill
feelings and mistrust by the families in these communities. And, it
continues to impact how and why African-Americans and other minorities are
reluctant to participate in clinical studies and biomedical research.
The National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care at Tuskegee
University was opened in January 1999 as a partial response to the apology
of President William J. Clinton for the U.S. Public Health Service
Syphilis Study at Tuskegee. The center strives to transform the burden of
the study’s negative legacy by collaborating with local, regional,
national and international communities to address ethical and human rights
issues in science, health, and social justice, particularly as they impact
people of color.