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Tuskegee - Lest We Forget
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Tuskegee - Lest We Forget

I've spent considerable time today prepping for a class I will be teaching this term - Health Research Methods.  It's my favorite class to teach (I don't like practice or content courses as much).  I've taught this course at 2 universities for 10 years now, and I've noticed a disturbing situation.

Each year, fewer people TRULY know about the Tuskegee Experiment.

Even the Black Students don't know the details!!  Note - I teach doctoral students in my field.  They know its about untreated syphylis and poor black men.  They don't fully grasp how it impacted Black Men.  The impact went further - to their loved ones (wives, children).  Since this disease is so easily treatable, these kids are not even in fear of what untreated syphylis does!  The damage extends to the brain!  Not just the sexual organs!


The legacy of this study is one reason why we face such huge racial/ethnic and gender health disparities - even taking into consideration income and education!  

I usually dedicate an entire class session to Research Ethics.  Anyhow, I've decided to expand this term's coverage to take two class sessions - not one.  

In the past, I've used a wonderful 50 minute film by Nova "The Deadly Deception."  I can't find a copy of it, and it is old . . . so the sound and picture quality is terrible.  I managed to find the video online - will assign it to all to view.  But I'm so disheartened by the level of ignorance - particularly among OUR PEOPLE.

As a refresher, remind people about the Tuskegee Study.  We can not afford to forget.
1895 Booker T. Washington at the Atlanta Cotton Exposition, outlines his dream for black economic development and gains support of northern philanthropists, including Julius Rosenwald (President of Sears, Roebuck and Company).

1900 Tuskegee educational experiment gains widespread support.  Rosenwald Fund provides monies to develop schools, factories, businesses, and agriculture.

1915 Booker T. Washington dies; Robert Motin continues work.

1926 Health is seen as inhibiting development and major health initiative is started.  Syphilis is seen as major health problem. Prevalence of 35 percent observed in reproductive age population.

1929 Aggressive treatment approach initiated with mercury and bismuth.  Cure rate is less than 30 percent; treatment requires months and side effects are toxic, sometimes fatal.

1929 "Wall Street Crash"--economic depression begins.

1931 Rosenwald Fund cuts support to development projects.  Clark and Vondelehr decide to follow men left untreated due to lack of funds in order to show need for treatment program.

1932 Follow-up effort organized into study of 399 men with syphilis and 201 without.  The men would be given periodic physical assessments and told they were being treated.  Motin agrees to support study if "Tuskegee Institute gets its full share of the credit" and black professionals are involved (Dr. Dibble and Nurse Rivers are assigned to study).

1934 First papers suggest health effects of untreated syphilis.

1936 Major paper published.  Study criticized because it is not known if men are being treated.  Local physicians asked to assist with study and not to treat men.  Decision was made to follow the men until death.

1940 Efforts made to hinder men from getting treatment ordered under the military draft effort.

1945 Penicillin accepted as treatment of choice for syphilis.

1947 USPHS establishes "Rapid Treatment Centers" to treat syphilis; men in study are not treated, but syphilis declines.

1962 Beginning in 1947, 127 black medical students are rotated through unit doing the study.

1968 Concern raised about ethics of study by Peter Buxtun and others.

1969 CDC reaffirms need for study and gains local medical societies' support (AMA and NMA chapters officially support continuation of study).

1972 First news articles condemn studies.

1972 Study ends.

1973 Congress holds hearings and a class-action lawsuit is filed on behalf of the study participants.

1974 A $10 million out-of-court settlement is reached and the U.S. government promised to give lifetime medical benefits and burial services to all living participants.  The Tuskegee Health Benefit Program (THBP) was established to provide these services.

1975 Wives, widows and offspring were added to the program.

1995 The program was expanded to include health as well as medical benefits.

1997 On May 16th President Clinton apologizes on behalf of the Nation.

2001 President's Council on Bioethics was established.

2004 CDC funds 10 million dollar cooperative agreement to continue work at Tuskegee University National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care.

2004 The last U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee participant dies on January 16.

2006 Tuskegee University holds formal opening of Bioethics Center.

2009 The last widow receiving THBP benefits dies on January 27.

Now which one of you NAUGHTY chillin' been messin' wit da SHADOWMAN?!?!
01-17-2010 07:14 PM
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RE: Tuskegee - Lest We Forget

Very good post Doc our young people really need to be aware of our history and compare with the disparities that continue to exist within our community.  Most people dont enough about our history as a whole much less the atrocities in our medical history.  Our youth take so little stock in knowing where we come from and how it relates to their present or future.  Syphilis is a horrible disease if untreated or treated late (can lay dormant for years then resurface).  What was done to our men in this study was nothing short of criminal, in my opinion.

01-18-2010 08:10 AM
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