Medicine and Justice Scholars 

Medicine and Justice Scholars is a student-led initiative created to bring about awareness and have conversations about racism, gender, sexuality, and discrimination in healthcare and health education. Often, these are hard topics to discuss, but it’s important to learn about these realities in order to create a more equitable healthcare community.

MJS is going to bring in speakers every term to talk about their expertise in studying and combatting inequalities in healthcare and to facilitate productive Q&A within the Dartmouth community. 
In addition, we will be sending out “Resources from MJS” with our emails and posting media on this webpage:

Books – Non-Fiction

Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine by Damon Tweedy, M.D.

Black Man in a White Coat examines the complex ways in which both Black doctors and patients must navigate the difficult and often contradictory terrain of race and medicine. As Tweedy transforms from student to practicing physician, he discovers how often race influences his encounters with patients. Through their stories, he illustrates the complex social, cultural, and economic factors at the root of many health problems in the Black community. These issues take on greater meaning when Tweedy is himself diagnosed with a chronic disease far more common among Black people. In this powerful, moving, and deeply empathic book, Tweedy explores the challenges confronting Black doctors, and the disproportionate health burdens faced by Black patients, ultimately seeking a way forward to better treatment and more compassionate care.”

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

“Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew. It’s a story inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we’re made of.”

Medical Apartheid by Harriet A. Washington

Medical Apartheid is the first and only comprehensive history of medical experimentation on African Americans. Starting with the earliest encounters between black Americans and Western medical researchers and the racist pseudoscience that resulted, it details the ways both slaves and freedmen were used in hospitals for experiments conducted without their knowledge—a tradition that continues today within some black populations. It reveals how blacks have historically been prey to grave-robbing as well as unauthorized autopsies and dissections. Moving into the twentieth century, it shows how the pseudoscience of eugenics and social Darwinism was used to justify experimental exploitation and shoddy medical treatment of blacks, and the view that they were biologically inferior, oversexed, and unfit for adult responsibilities. Shocking new details about the government’s notorious Tuskegee experiment are revealed, as are similar, less-well-known medical atrocities conducted by the government, the armed forces, prisons, and private institutions.”

Packing Them In: An Archaeology of Environmental Racism in Chicago, 1865-1954 by Sylvia Hood Washington

“This important new book by Sylvia Washington adds a vital new dimension to our understanding of environmental history in the United States. Washington excavates and tells the stories of Chicago’s poor, working class, and ethnic minority neighborhoods―such as Back of the Yards and Bronzeville―that suffered disproportionately negative environmental impacts and consequent pollution related health problems. She provides a new frame for interpreting the social, political, and administrative initiatives of the early 20th century that influenced public health and urban revitalization movements in some of Chicago’s most disenfranchised communities. This pioneering work will be essential reading not only for historians, but for urban planners, sociologists, citizen action groups and anyone interested in understanding the precursors to the contemporary environmental justice movement.”

Medical Bondage by Deirdre Cooper Owens

“In Medical Bondage, Cooper Owens examines a wide range of scientific literature and less formal communications in which gynecologists created and disseminated medical fictions about their patients, such as their belief that black enslaved women could withstand pain better than white “ladies.” Even as they were advancing medicine, these doctors were legitimizing, for decades to come, groundless theories related to whiteness and blackness, men and women, and the inferiority of other races or nationalities. Medical Bondage moves between southern plantations and northern urban centers to reveal how nineteenth-century American ideas about race, health, and status influenced doctor-patient relationships in sites of healing like slave cabins, medical colleges, and hospitals. It also retells the story of black enslaved women and of Irish immigrant women from the perspective of these exploited groups and thus restores for us a picture of their lives.” 

Books – Fiction

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

This is a fiction novel and not related to racial disparities in medicine, but provides an interesting insight into an emergency medicine physician’s experience raising a child with gender dysphoria as well as addressing transphobia in medicine and in society as a whole.

Movies

The African Doctor directed by Julien Rambaldi

“The story of Seyolo Zantoko, who as a freshly graduated doctor of Congolese descent in France, struggled with his family to integrate in a small rural village, and ended up being considered as one of the most respected doctors in the area.”

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

“An African American woman becomes an unwitting pioneer for medical breakthroughs when her cells are used to create the first immortal human cell line in the early 1950s.” 

“Told through the eyes of Henrietta Lacks’ daughter, Deborah Lacks, the film chronicles her search, along with journalist Rebecca Skloot (Byrne), to learn about the mother she never knew and understand how the unauthorized harvesting of Lacks’ cancerous cells in 1951 led to unprecedented medical breakthroughs, changing countless lives and the face of medicine forever.”

Podcasts

“People Like Us: How Our Identities Shape Health and Educational Success”

In a simple study pairing Black men with either white or Black doctors, researchers were attempting to see if shared identity could improve trust in a patient-doctor relationship. At the end of the day, the results seemed to say yes: men in the study seeing Black doctors were 72% more likely to get cholesterol screening, a metric that could decrease the gap in cardiovascular health by 20%. This NPR podcast poses three major questions: who do patients trust, why do they trust them, and how can we use this knowledge to improve health outcomes in the future? 

Articles

  • Health Coverage and Care for Transgender People – Threats and Opportunities by Daphna Stroumsa, M.D., M.P.H., and Anna R. Kirkland, J.D., Ph.D., NEJM
  • Failed Assignments – Rethinking Sex Designations on Birth Certificates by Vadim M. Shteyler, M.D., Jessica A. Clarke, J.D., and Eli Y. Adashi, M.D., NEJM