Today, several B-RAD members attended a fantastic talk by Dr. David Hodge, entitled "The So-Called Tuskegee Syphilis Study, Covid-19, and the Ethics of Trustworthiness". It was compelling to hear about how history that occurred 140 miles from us in Tuscaloosa, AL is still be affecting perceptions of science and health services. Dr. Hodge emphasized that we should be very thoughtful about the name -- instead of scapegoating the subjects in the study, the onus/responsibility should be on the individuals that conducted the study.
You can read a detailed description of the study on the CDC website. A very brief summary: Black men with and without syphilis enrolled in the study, and despite a readily available treatment (penicillin), the researchers did not offer it to the study participants needing treatment. This is a terrible ethical violation and is a failure of the medical community at large.
As Dr. Hodge points out: Trust is intimately connected to history; it's not ahistorical. There are many examples of similar documented events -- J. Marion Sims conducting "research" on enslaved women without anesthesia, cells taken unknowingly from Henrietta Lacks which have lead to medical developments (e.g., HeLa cells) without credit or benefit to her or her family.
There are inequities in treating COVID-19: CDC data indicates upwards of 2-3x of death and hospitalization that of White individuals. In the push to encourage Black individuals to get vaccinated, Dr. Hodge had great words: Be careful not to microwave trustworthiness -- you've got to crockpot it.
Such an important distinction. A crockpot is slow, loving, and consistent. These are all characteristics that are needed to build trust. This is essential for science, for the medical community. It is critical to re-incentivize engagement with real, true, ongoing support from existing systems.
What does this mean to us in the B-RAD Lab? As psychological scientists, we are dedicated to learning about how people function, think, and act. We hope that our efforts will improve treatment outcomes for individuals -- and we're currently specifically targeting children with ASD and/or other related neurodevelopmental disorders. We acknowledge that there are inequities even with our own work and are working to re-establish trust within our local, regional, national, (global!?) communities. We will be developing programs for community outreach and engagement that are separate from our research efforts. Do you have ideas? Feel free to let us know!
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