Last week the Go Big Read blog featured Ruth Faden, keynote speaker on April 15th for the Capstone Event. This week, we’re excited to share some info about the capstone’s second keynote speaker! On April 16th, keynote Vanessa Northington Gamble will speak on “Henrietta Lacks Beyond Her Cells: Race, Racism, and American Medicine.”
Gamble is a physician and medical historian located at George Washington University, where she is a professor of medical humanities and history. From 1989 until 2000, she was a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin. Among other accomplishments here in Madison, including becoming the founder and director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, she developed the nation’s first class on the history of race, American medicine, and public health.
Much of Gamble’s work and experience focuses on these fields. For example, in the late 1990s, Gamble was the chair of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study Legacy Committee. The Tuskegee Syphilis Study, which lasted forty years, began in 1932, and resulted in medical complications or death for hundreds of African Americans. Thanks to the work of the Legacy Committee, President Clinton issued an apology on behalf of the United States government.
Readers of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks might remember Skloot’s discussion of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. In explaining it, she says, “The research subjects didn’t ask questions. They were poor and uneducated…” (pg 50). This study, and the story of HeLa, share numerous similarities relating to race, ethics, and medicine. We look forward to hearing Gamble’s discussion of these topics on April 16th.
Click here to RSVP for the events on April 15th and 16th at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, which are free and open to the public.