Home > Events > Whose Stories? Testimony and Testifying on the Tuskegee Syphilis Study


Whose Stories? Testimony and Testifying on the Tuskegee Syphilis Study

by SKeira Jul 16, 2015
When Feb 21, 2006
from 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Where Foster Auditorium, 101 Pattee Library
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Professor of Women's Studies, Wellesley College

Susan M. Reverby is Professor of Women's Studies at Wellesley College and an historian of American women, medicine, and nursing. As Wellesley's first faculty hire in Women's Studies, she has taught at the college since l982. She is the editor of numerous volumes on women's history, the history of medicine, and the history of nursing. Her prize-winning book, Ordered to Care: The Dilemma of American Nursing (New York: Cambridge University Press, l987) is still considered one of the major overview histories of American nursing. She is a former health policy analyst and women's health activist. From l993–l997 she served as the consumer representative on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Obstetrics and Gynecology Devices Advisory Panel. In l995 she was made an honorary member of Sigma Theta Tau, the national nursing honor society.

Her current research focuses on the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study, run by the U.S. Public Health Service between 1932 and 1972, which examined untreated syphilis in African American men and was conducted without the men's knowledge of its experimental nature. She is the editor of Tuskegee's Truths: Rethinking the Tuskegee Syphilis Study(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000) and is completing a new book on the differing ways the story of the study are told. She was a member of the Legacy Committee on the Tuskegee Syphilis Study that successfully lobbied then-President Bill Clinton to offer a public apology to the surviving men and their heirs in l997. Her work on this project has been supported by several grants and residencies at the W.E.B. DuBois Research Center and the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard.

Susan Reverby's work has appeared in a wide range of publications, from scholarly journals to editorials in the popular press. Her most recent work on the Tuskegee Syphilis Study has appeared in England in both the Times Education Supplement and the Postgraduate Medical Journal and in the United States in the Hastings Center Report. She has spoken widely in the United States, Australia, Canada, and Sweden on the history of gender, ethics, and health care issues. She comments frequently in the media on these subjects.

Susan Reverby received her B.S. degree from Cornell University in Industrial and Labor Relations/Labor History in l967. She earned an M.A. in American Civilization from New York University in l973 and a Ph.D. in American Studies from Boston University in 1982.

Whose Stories? Testimony and Testifying on the Tuskegee Syphilis Study

The Tuskegee Syphilis Study (l932-l972) is remembered as one of the worst and most racist violation of research ethics in American history. For forty years, the U.S. Public Health Service created a study to watch and not deliberately treat 399 African American men with late stage syphilis in and around Tuskegee, Alabama. The men, however, thought they were being treated for what was called "bad blood." Many facts and fictions circulate in our culture about the study. This lecture focuses on the stories told by historians and bioethicists about the study to explore their limitations, to question what really happened around treatment, and to explain why we tell the tales we do.

February 21, 2006
3:00 p.m.
Foster Auditorium, 101 Pattee Library


Lobby Talks offer a forum for civic dialogue and create a meeting place for university and community expertise and experiences to be shared in vibrant and meaningful ways. Leaders and experts across disciplines are invited to engage in open public discourse and partner with colleges and departments on campus to extend research and service beyond the walls of the university. The Science, Medicine and Technology in Culture program and Penn State Public Broadcasting will bring to this forum two important conversations in February 2006.

Do No Harm? Medicine and Ethics on the Anniversary of the Nazi Doctors’ Trial

This year represents the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the so-called Nazi Doctors' Trial. The trial is renowned not only for prosecuting twenty-three leading German physicians and administrators for their participation in war crimes and crimes against humanity during World War II, but also for establishing the so-called "Nuremberg Code" of permissible medical experiments.

The lobby talk will bring together scholars from the humanities to discuss the broad ethical legacy of that trial as well as the crimes it adjudicated. Topics for discussion will include the ethics of informed consent in medical treatment and human experimentation, the values placed on life, death, health, and disability, and the role of race in medicine.

This talk is being developed to augment the Penn State Center for the Performing Arts sponsored event of the L.A. Theatre Works production of The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial. For additional information, reference:http://www.cpa.psu.edu/events/events0506/monkey.html.

February 22, 2006
7:00 p.m.
WPSU TV/FM, Outreach Building, 120 Innovation Boulevard