The vision, mission and major goal of the Bioethics Center at Tuskegee University are based on the interdependence of spheres of ethics, social justice and public health. Ethics is defined broadly, “the wide-ranging study of right and wrong, as well as good and bad, insofar as these pertain to conduct and character.” (Laud-Hammond, 2007) Social Justice, at the Bioethics Center focusses on fairness, who decides, why and when. Within the context of the work for the Bioethics Center, public health is anything that affects the community on a mass basis. These broad definitions are used to allow more narrow descriptions in each sub-goal as they are more fully developed. The trans-disciplinary team approach to bioethics and public health ethics related to health and healthcare among selected health disparity populations in targeted Black Belt counties and beyond requires capacity beyond cultural competency and demands cultural proficiencies associated with race/ethnicity, gender, class and geographic locale. None of these proficiencies are achievable without a firm ethical foundation.
The challenge for Tuskegee University is to capture the unique historical and current nuances related to being low income, male, African American, living in the rural south. These demographics best describe the Syphilis Study Survivors, and Tuskegee University is singularly qualified to best interpret what happened as a result of the USPHS Syphilis Study. The Bioethics Center at Tuskegee University is positioned to inform national policies to prevent the reoccurrences of similar abuses in human health research and service to African American and other health disparity populations. Moreover, vigilance required to protect the public’s health must be maintained by institutions trusted by vulnerable populations.