Medicine and Justice Scholars: Dinner with Dr. Zaneta Thayer!

In our first Medicine and Justice Scholars (MJS) event on August 4th, NSS welcomed Professor Zaneta Thayer, a biological anthropologist at Dartmouth. Our conversation revolved around how racial trauma historically has been observed alongside higher rates of poor health, as observed in Professor Thayer’s recent studies on the effects of forced residential boarding school experiences in Native American communities. She discovered that Native American individuals who had attended forced residential boarding school had higher cortisol levels passed on from mother to child and higher blood pressure than those who did not. Further research done by Professor Thayer and others within the field detail similar outcomes. The emphasis was this: the trends in poor health she and her team observed were not the effect of genetics, but rather correlates of shared experiences of racial trauma. 

Professor Thayer also presented a model to illustrate the biological pathways by which historical trauma affects health. Her model is both within- and inter- generational, accounting for the effects of historical trauma as passed on prenatally and during childhood. Professor Thayer then prompted NSS to consider the origins and effects of racialized medicine and responded to questions about the reversibility of the effects of racial trauma, racism within the medical field, and others. 

NSS is grateful to have had this opportunity to discuss such underrepresented yet impactful factors to health, and would like to thank Professor Thayer and the undergraduate students who joined us in what was hopefully the first of many discussions on creating a more equitable healthcare community for all.