Moments ago, Tuskegee University announced the unanimous selection of Dr. Lily D. McNair as its eighth president — and our first female president — by the Board of Trustees. We wanted you to be among the first to know.

President-elect McNair will officially join us on July 1, 2018, coming from Wagner College where she currently serves as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

So you can become better acquainted with Dr. McNair, please There, you will find Dr. McNair’s biography and curriculum vitae, as well as the university’s official news announcement about her appointment. As you review Dr. McNair’s career path, I know — like me — you will be impressed by the depth and breadth of her professional experience and accomplishments.

As Dr. McNair concludes her service at Wagner College, we look forward to adding additional information about her transition to Tuskegee University to this webpage. Joining her will be her husband, Dr. George W. Roberts, a retired senior administrator at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Together, they have two adult children: Randall Roberts and Marguerite Roberts.

Thank you for your patience and trust throughout this process. When we launched our presidential search last October, we were committed to attracting an inspiring leader who will advance our current five-year strategic plan while ensuring we are a commanding, competitive and contemporary university in the decades to come. I truly believe we have found those qualities, and so many more, in Dr. McNair.

We could not have recruited someone of Dr. McNair’s caliber — much less done so in six months — without the quality feedback we received through our listening sessions and stakeholder survey. So, to those of you who took the time to participate in one or both of those efforts, I convey my thanks on behalf of my fellow trustees.

I also wish to thank the 16 members of our Presidential Search Committee who brought their diverse perspectives as students, employees, alumni and trustees to this effort. Each truly approached this confidential and deliberative process — and its long-term implications for our university — with the deference it deserved.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I also extend my admiration and sincerest appreciation to Dr. Charlotte Morris, who assumed the duties of interim president without reservation. I know you will agree with me that her tenure, while brief, has been marked by a stabilizing and calming leadership that will resonate within the Tuskegee Family for years to come. We look forward to honoring her for her many accomplishments in a manner appropriate to her service and commitment to our university.

The coming months will mark a time of transition. It also will be a time for each of us to recommit to making Mother Tuskegee “the pride of the swift-growing South” — and an even greater beacon for service, leadership and outreach in the nation and beyond.

Kindest regards,

John E. Page, Chair

Tuskegee University Board of Trustees

Dear all,

Happy March!  The semester is flying by indeed.

The past month at the College has been an exciting celebration of diversity and acceptance in honor of Estelle Osborne, the first Black nurse to obtain a master’s degree as well as a former nursing faculty member at NYU.  I want to give a special shout-out to the Meyers Equity, Belonging, and Inclusivity Committee who, along with our alumni relations and development team, planned the entire month’s events.  They were all special and spectacular and brought us closer together as a community.

This week’s culminating presentation and ceremony — the 27th Annual Estelle Osborne Legacy Celebration — were equally inspiring and challenging.  We were so fortunate to have Dr. Reuben Warren, executive director of the National Center for Bioethics in Research and Healthcare at Tuskegee University, with us to discuss the interdependence of public health, ethics, and social justice.  In particular, his talk served as a stark reminder of the historical consequences of the United States Public Health Service Syphilis Study and how to prevent the reoccurrences of similar abuses in human health research.

Following Dr. Warren’s presentation, Natalia Cineas BS ’06, deputy chief nursing officer at Mt. Sinai St. Luke’s, was honored as this year’s recognition awardee.  Her acceptance speech, uplifting and emotional, moved all of us in the room.  We also are grateful to Natalia for making a contribution to the Rwei Hwa Su Laptop Scholarship Fund, which provides funding to financially-needy students to purchase their own personal device.  Her generosity was born from her own difficulty affording a computer while she was in nursing school and the enormous benefit the laptop was for her to complete assignments and study for critical exams.

As the semester nears the mid-point, be sure to take good care of yourselves: eat healthy, exercise, and get enough sleep.

Stay dry this weekend.

Dean Eileen

Gun violence: Care ethicists making the invisible visible

Ann Gallagher, David Augustin Hodge, Sr

Many readers will be aware of the devastation caused by gun violence in the United States. In recent months, you would, most likely, have heard of massacres in Las Vegas (58 dead) and in a Texas church (26 dead). These are, however, the tip of this catastrophic iceberg. One overview of the statistics highlights the following: everyday, in America, an average of 93 people are killed with guns; every year, there are about 12,000 gun homicides; for every person killed with a gun, two others are injured; on an average day, seven children and teenagers are killed with guns; every month, an average of 50 women are killed by a partner with a gun; Black men are 14 times more likely to be shot and killed by guns than white men; and the gun homicide rate in America is 25 times more than the average of other developed countries.1

The current gun situation in America is an issue that needs to be understood and responded to by care ethicists. It is an issue whereby some groups are less visible and less valued than others. It is our view that this is contributed to by a lack of empathy. This is an issue that ethicists need to care about as it impacts negatively on marginalized groups and communities and on caregivers who have to respond to the suffering of victims of gun violence and their families. It is noteworthy that the American Nurses Association has “taken a stand”2 on this issue and the American Medical Association has declared gun violence “a public health crisis.”3

Conversations we have had with Americans reveal a wide range of views. We have talked with people who take their right to bear arms seriously and who argue that they need a gun, particularly in rural areas, for self-protection and to keep the number of deer and coyotes down. Others are appalled at the liberal legislation relating to gun control. A colleague sent us a link to a news item reporting that the State of Wisconsin had lowered the age limit for a hunting gun license. The headline ran “Babies issued gun licenses after minimum shooting age eliminated by Wisconsin law.”4 In response to this report, our colleague said she was “not proud to be American.”

The authors of this editorial come at this topic with different experiences. One of us, a white female ethicist, worked as a nurse during the Northern Irish conflict and witnessed the anguish caused by shootings. The other, a black male philosopher and theologian, has personally witnessed the senseless death of a young black male.

It is our view that the lens of intersectionality may help illuminate some of the complexity of disparities relating to the reporting of gun deaths and injuries. The African-American academic, Kimberlè Crenshaw,5,6 for example, shows how black women are invisible in the reporting of gun crime. This invisibility inhibits ethical sensitivity and an empathic response—and this is unethical. Any trend or aspiration that vies for the invisibility of other humans cannot be an ethical one. Additionally, the dilemma is more widespread than just gun control and can be affixed to a broader context that are identified as social determinants of health.

Dr David Satcher,7 past director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and former Surgeon General of the United States, gives a rather straightforward definition that demonstrates the complexity of gun control and intersectionality: “Social determinants of health have been identified as the conditions in which people are born, grow, learn, work, age and die, and the impact those conditions have on health outcomes.” If we take Satcher’s view seriously, we must conclude that gun control is a health issue requiring a public health ethics response that is grounded in a normative theory of empathy and care ethics.

Gun lobbyists are fond of curt mantras like “Guns don’t kill people—people kill people!,”8 and there are good reasons to believe that this reductionist logic needs quieting. But let’s accept this premise and conclusion for a moment. Let us agree that people kill people with guns, because they do. Wouldn’t it be a strong induction to argue that removal of guns would curtail the killing of other people? Curt refrains like “Guns don’t kill people—people kill people!” smack of apathy rather than empathy.

We would characterize the ethical problem as follows: there seems to be a greater immediacy for what is visible (near and dear) than what is invisible (far and away). For example, a child drowning in front of us is more immediate than a starving child we merely hear about or witness on a television program. The largest portion of people who are dying from gunshot wounds (GSWs) are black and from poorer populations in inner cities that we merely hear about. They are quite invisible to the masses. They are neither fundamentalist gun lobbyists nor National Rifle Association of America members, but they are humans—just with a radically different social context.

In our introduction, we mentioned the sensationalized, headline-worthy, gun crime deaths where (mostly white) people were killed in Las Vegas (58 dead) and in a Texas church (26 dead). There was, understandably, a national and international empathic response. But there are far higher numbers to be found in the city of Chicago alone. At the time of this writing (11 December 2017) in Chicago, so far this year, there were 2833 people shot and wounded, 594 shot and killed, and 65 shot and wounded this month alone, the overwhelming majority being young black men. These deaths and injuries do not make national or international headlines. These victims of gun violence remain invisible.

Perhaps, if these real lives-now-lost were made visible to defenders of the curt mantra, their normal human empathy would extend itself in caring ways.9 Normal human empathy directs us toward caring for others—making the invisible visible, which is a noble and ethical aspiration. Until all humans are made visible to each other, excess deaths by avoidable social determinants is a form of moral blindness with devastating consequences that will continue to prevail.

The authors thank Michael Slote of the University of Miami for very helpful comments and also thank Craig Gannon and other colleagues who commented on a blog post on this theme (see

1. Everytown. Gun violence by the numbers, Scholar
2. Urges nurses to help stop gun violence. The American Nurses Association, 25 December 2016, Google Scholar
3. Gun violence “a public health crisis.” American Medical Association, 14 June 2016, Google Scholar
4. Sanders, L. Babies issued gun licenses after minimum shooting age eliminated by Wisconsin law. Newsweek, 29 November 2017, Google Scholar
5. Crenshaw, K. Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: a black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. Univ Chic Leg Forum 1989(1): 139167, Google Scholar
6. Crenshaw, K. The urgency of intersectionality: TED talk, 2016, Google Scholar
7. Satcher, D. Tuskegee legacy: the role of social determinants of health. In: Katz, RV, Warren, RC (eds) The search for the legacy of the USPHS syphilis study at Tuskegee. New York: Lexington Books, 2011, p. 41. Google Scholar
8. Shamas, M. “It’s time to retire the ‘guns don’t kill people—people kill people’ argument. Guns do kill people.” HUFFPOST, 13 October 2017, Google Scholar
9. Slote, M. The ethics of care and empathy, Ch. 2. New York: Routledge, 2007. Google Scholar

“African-Americans During a Time of War”

All lectures are located in the John A. Kenney Hall Bioethics Auditorium, RM 71-243, unless otherwise noted.

  • Thursday, Feb. 1, 11 a.m., Kwesi Daniels: “Paris Exposition and Tuskegee”
  • Tuesday, Feb. 6, 11 a.m., Vester Marable: “The Tuskegee Airmen National Park Site”
  • Wednesday, Feb. 7, 11 a.m., Lisa Bratton and Elyse Hill, “Introduction to African-American Genealogy”
  • Thursday, Feb. 8, 11 a.m., Sumpter Winbush: “African-American Veterans”
  • Tuesday, Feb. 13, 11 a.m.: “Roundtable Discussion on Tuskegee Airmen”
  • Thursday, Feb. 15, 11 a.m.: “Tuskegee University History Symposium: Beauty and Burden of Blackness”
  • Friday, Feb. 16, 11 a.m.: “Tuskegee University History Symposium: Beauty and Burden of Blackness,” Location: George Washington Carver Museum
  • Tuesday, Feb. 20, 11 a.m., David Banks: “Roots: The Spiritual and Personal Journeys”
  • Thursday, Feb. 22, 11 a.m.: “Panel Discussion on the Legacy of President Obama”
  • Friday, Feb. 23, 11 a.m.: Art Competition
  • Tuesday, Feb. 27, 11 a.m., Tim Bryant: “Tuskegee and Macon County During Time of War”
  • Tuesday, Feb. 27, 1 p.m., Rip Patton, “An Afternoon with a Freedom Rider”
  • Wednesday, Feb. 28, 11 a.m.: “Post World War II and the Negro Soldier,” Location: Tuskegee University Libraries

Learn More About the Events Here

The Proceedings are from the February 5th-8th, 2017 conference entitled, “Examining Ethical and Other Implications for a Culture of Health in the Context of the Deep South.” First and foremost, thanks are extended to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), particularly to Risa Lavizzo-Mourey MD, MBA, former President and CEO for her leadership and vison in developing a Culture of Health throughout the U.S. Thanks are also extended to Richard Besser MD, the current President and CEO of RWJF, for his continual support for this national initiative. Dwayne Proctor PhD, has been extraordinary for his guidance and advice, as National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care, Tuskegee University (National Bioethics Center) focused on a conference to examine a Culture of Health of the Deep South. Matthew Trujillo, PhD and Michael White, MPH, the Project Officers for the conference grant, have been extremely helpful in working with the National Bioethics Center faculty and staff in planning and executing the conference. Embedded in Tuskegee University history of serving those in greatest need, particularly those in rural areas. In 1915, Booker. T. Washington, Founding President of Tuskegee University, started Negro Health Week, which focused on the health of African Americans. More than 100 years later, former Tuskegee University President, Brian Johnson, PhD was instrumental the initiating conversations between RWJF and Tuskegee University regarding the health of people in the Deep South. We also acknowledge the extraordinary leadership of Charlotte Morris PhD, Interim President, for creating a “culture of compassionate caring and commitment” at Tuskegee University. She has served the university in senior staff, faculty and/or administrative positions for many, many years.

The conference speakers and facilitators should be commended for their willingness and effort to translate their conference presentations and workshop deliberations into publishable articles (some were peer reviewed). Louis S. Sullivan, MD, Founding Dean and President of the Morehouse School of Medicine and Former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provided an engaging presentation of the role of health professionals in a Culture of Health, which focused on the report entitled, “The Sullivan Report: Missing in Actions.” Dr. Sullivan discussed, in his presentation, the need to increase the number of culturally competent physicians, dentists and nurses. The attendees from throughout the states of the Deep South were tremendously engaged during the conference, and even since then, in advancing the idea of a Culture of Health. The National Bioethics Center staff, particularly Robyn White, Geraldine Thomas and Kecia Stewart committed extra time and energy, beyond their regular duties, to complete the follow up work to ensure that the Proceedings was completed and published in a timely manner. The conference and the Proceedings are the beginning of examining a Culture of Health of the Deep South. Over the upcoming years a series of activities will be undertaken, including the National Bioethics Center developing a 5-Year Action Plan. Differing from most, this conference is the beginning, not the end, of forward thinking towards a new way of viewing health within the context of culture and ethics. The Proceedings provide concrete ideas on what moving forward looks and feels like.


Rueben C. Warren
David A. Hodge

View The Proceedings and download them Final Copy of the Proceedings 1-15-18.

‘Do you want to know if it’s loaded?’ asked octogenarian, Mr S, when he noticed I’d caught sight of the handgun and holster slung over my chair…

My penultimate day in Alabama was spent with a home care team who delivered services to elders in a rural community. Before team members had breakfast together, they held hands and said prayers of thanksgiving.

‘Faith’, as I’ve found throughout my stay in the South, is unapologetically and wholeheartedly embraced.

The occupational therapist I shadowed had an excellent rapport with those she visited – including Mr S – and was thoughtful about the everyday ethical issues she came across: elders reluctant to be discharged when they were assessed as not needing home care services;  those who live with family whose lifestyles do not make for a healthy environment; and elders who are lonely, wanting company more than the assistance with activities of daily living the OT feels they need.

Four lessons

I am privileged to have been a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence and was sad to leave Tuskegee University this week. I am confident that collaboration will develop and friendships made will endure.

I set out to explore aspects of ‘ethics and elder care’ and learnt about much else. Four lessons stand out:

  1. ‘Black’ is complicated – I talked with Black people brought up in the US and with those who came to the US from countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, the UK and the Caribbean – all had different perspectives on Black history and what follows from it.
  2. ‘Church’ is diverse and deeply embedded in everyday life in the South – there are, for example, about 200 denominations in the Southern Baptist Convention (see I witnessed the solidarity, respect and generosity demonstrated in Church and in everyday life. I was also challenged by views and practices that were not respectful of difference.
  3. Stories illuminate intersecting identities – There is much value in inviting and listening to stories so we understand our differences and similarities and how unique identities impact on individuals ability to flourish.
  4. A pluralist bioethics is the best fit for cross-cultural exploration – historical and cultural contexts impact on bioethical questions and perspectives. In the spirit of the Fulbright vision, we need to be open-minded and not assume that one perspective will suit all.

Life, death and next steps

Last week I promised mention of football. Bill Shankley’s quip about soccer could apply to American college football in the South:

‘They say football’s a matter of life and death – but it’s more important than that’.

I visited Montgomery the weekend local university Auburn was playing Alabama. The city was deserted as some 100,000 people had descended on Auburn for the game. Football, I was told, is another Southern religion.

My encounter with Mr S brought into sharp focus a very challenging aspect of Southern culture: gun control. I met Mr S when I was shadowing the OT. He told me his handgun was loaded and that he kept another by his armchair.

The right to own a gun is held dear by many in Alabama so I leave you with two questions:

  • Is ‘gun control’ a topic for bioethicists to debate? and
  • What does ‘gun control’ have to do with care ethics?

I’m currently working on a Nursing Ethics Editorial on this theme with a Tuskegee colleague, Dr David Hodge. We’ll be pleased to consider your responses as we write this.

Next week I will tell about my time at the Kennedy Institute in Georgetown. Washington.

Fatih Week 2018

January 15-21, 2018

Monday, January 15, 2018

Martin Luther King Holiday Observance

The Rev. Edward L. Wheeler, Ph.D.

President, The Interdenominational Theological Center (Atlanta, Georgia)

Former Dean of the Chapel and University Professor of Religion and Society Tuskegee University

University Chapel – 11:00 a.m.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Ecumenical Prayer Gathering

Chapel – 12:00 Noon

Friday, January 19, 2018

Annual Gospel Music Concert

Tuskegee University Golden Voices Concert

Choir University Chapel – 7:00 p.m.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

All University Worship

David Hodge, Ph.D., D.Min.

Associate Director for Education


University Chapel – 9:30 a.m.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

“Seven” – a dramatic musical

(Recently performed in Montgomery at the 122nd Session of the Central Alabama Conference of the A.M.E. Zion Church)

Directed by Mrs. Brenda Shuford, Golden Voices accompanist and Fine and Performing Arts faculty member University Chapel – 4:00 p.m.

Would it be a good idea to have had Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) in the UK? This was one of the many questions put to me in a Q and A session with final year students at Tuskegee University this week.

HBCUs have a long history in the United States. They were set up in the 1830’s to meet the educational needs of Black Americans. The first students had little or no previous education and the focus was on the development of practical skills. Across the USA there are now 102 HBCU’s in 19 states with almost 300,000 students on a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. It  is reported that there has been an increase in diversity in HBU’s from 15% of non-Black students in 1979 to 22% in 2015 (see ).

The benefits of HBCUs

So what are the benefits of HBCUs?

I checked this out with a small group of students here at Tuskegee University. They self-defined as Catholic, Christian and Muslim. All agreed that the experience of being in a HBCU had developed their ‘Black identity’ and heightened their sense of pride. One said it had been ‘an eye opener’ to learn about Black history. They acknowledged the diversity of ‘Black’ and some of the challenges of racism which, they felt, came from ignorance and fear. If you want to get to understand people, they said, you need to take time to get to know them.

Some questions…

Is it not more beneficial to promote educational integration? Surely having a diverse student body, studying together, inevitably leads to enhanced respect and mutual understanding?

There is evidence that even within institutions with a lot of diversity, prejudice exists. This was described by a Fulbright scholar just this week on an excellent Radio 4 progamme entitled ‘Being Muslim in America’ (listen at

If we are to go down the voluntary segregation road, which groups should be entitled to a college of their own? Women? Catholics? Muslims? Humanists? There are already many schools that are segregated on the basis of sex and faith. Which should we be supportive of?  and Why?Please do share your views.


[Photo of the Adams Chapel School (1898) at Old Alabama Town Museum, Montgomery]

Impartial education?

The students I talked with here at Tuskegee said they aspired to love, peace and harmony in our global community. To that end, a high quality education is crucial with mutual respect between teacher and student and impartial disciplinary expertise that develops critical thinking.

Our first year students at the University of Surrey have just completed an innovative 6 week online course (pre-MOOC) on the theme of ‘Applying Ethics to Health and Social Care’. Their discussion feedback highlights the value of video extracts that help them understand a wide range of patient and professional perspectives on good care. They referred to the usefulness of ethical principles, virtues and human rights. The students had also engaged with a range of future oriented ethical challenges, including robots in care.

One student’s question amused and reminded of the importance of real people engaging in authentic educational activities together. She requested more face-to face interaction and asked: ‘How do we know that she (online teacher) is not a highly developed professorbot?’

In the next blog post I will be reflecting on my final week in Alabama and focusing on ‘football, Church and Bioethics’. I will also be visiting an elder care service and will be able to tell you about that.


Another week has flown by and I’m absorbed in constructing the story I will tell at my Fulbright ‘reflections’ lecture this coming Friday. My aim is to keep in mind the teaching of the Sankofa bird (‘we must go back to our roots in order to move forward’) and the Fulbright vision (seeking mutual understanding). Looking backwards to look forward with a view to developing mutual understanding.

Experiences during the American Public Health (APHA) Conference in Atlanta, from participating in a Respect and Health Disparities Workshop on Friday and during the Bridge Builders Programme events this weekend have given me much to mull over.

First to what I might say about my past on Friday.

Few here know where Donegal is or what ‘The Troubles’ were. As many of you know, National Geographic recently voted Donegal the ‘coolest place on the planet’ so this will have to get a mention. Regarding ‘The Troubles’, I stumbled upon an excellent documentary, which brought my student nurse days at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, flooding back (see

The day after I’d watched this, I got into conversation in Atlanta. The man told me he was from New York and had been in Belfast ‘on business’ in the 1980’s. I was intrigued. ‘What sort of business would an American be doing in Belfast in the 1980’s?’ It turned out that he was a lawyer who’d represented a high profile republican politician. How I would have loved to have heard his story but, sadly, he was rushing back to New York. Perhaps only to escape the overly curious Irish interrogator he’d met at the concierge counter…

Facilitator and bioethicist, Dr Sodeke, opened the Respect and Health Diversity Workshop by reminding participants that ‘every one of us has a story.’ And stories, it strikes me, are very much what a sabbatical is about. As Arthur Frank says: ‘Stories animate human life; that is their work. Stories work with people, for people and always stories work on people, affecting what people are able to see as real, as possible, and as worth doing or best avoided’ (Letting stories breathe: A socio -narratology 2010).

A most interesting part of the present at the Atlanta American Public Health conference was the closing panel discussion on the theme of ‘climate change and social justice.’ The women on the panel represented the most diverse and empowered perspectives imaginable and told their stories of work with local communities to safeguard and promote the flourishing of people, other species and the environment in Alaska, Georgia, Chicago and California (details of speakers and abstracts here – ). The conference in Atlanta brought together 12,000 delegates, many of whom were critical of politicians’ lack of commitment to the conference agenda.

The future was most apparent during this weekend’s Bridge Builders’ Program activities. The National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care at Tuskegee University is enabling less privileged young people to prepare for college – making a bridge between High School and University. Yesterday – Saturday – they were exposed to the story of Dr J. Brooks, School Superintendent of Macon County. Her talk was called ‘Growing up Country’ and detailed the impact of home, church and school on her development. Her story was inspirational and the students were enthralled. She shared also how ‘organic’ food was produced making use, for example, of every part of a pig – ‘from the rooter to the hooter’. I was left floundering when she asked me directly ‘do you use every part of the pig in England?’

Today – Sunday – the Bridge Builders’ students were welcomed to  the Nebraska Missionary Baptist Church in Hardaway and were treated to a warm welcome, passionate worship and a hot lunch. I was privileged to accompany the students and to witness the encouragement from the congregation for students who seem to be on the way to a promising future. In saying goodbye to me, the friendly Pastor asked me to give his regards to the Queen.

I’ll continue to  ponder the bridges I need to cross and connections I need to make to consolidate my experience here. More next week…

An article form University of Surrey’s Ethics In Care Section

Imagine you’re in a bar, earnestly engaged in an ethics-related discussion, when a man sidles up to you and says: ‘All this talk about ethics is just nonsense. It’s all a matter of opinion and there are no rights or wrongs.’

How would you respond? Would you like a one word answer?

Or maybe you’d like to tell him about the Sankofa bird? Read on…

I’ve now more or less figured out the geography of the campus. I’ve located the eating places (student cafeteria not unlike a cathedral), university museums and gym. I’ve met some of the impressive honours bioethics students and been shown how to shake hands the American way (firmly not flimsy).

I’ve  also worked out the pedestrian route to Tuskegee city centre. The city has a population of about 10,000 and a recent census showed that 95% of the population is Black/African American. The area has a rich and harrowing history with at least three significant episodes relating to Tuskegee University.

The Good, the Bad and the Unforgotten

The first involves the setting up of the ‘Normal School for Coloured Teachers at Tuskegee’ by former slave, Lewis Adams, in 1881. He recruited the inspirational Booker T. Washington, famous for his groundbreaking 1901 book ‘Up From Slavery’. George Washington Carver, came to head up the agricultural department and took resources to local farmers to help them improve their practice. Both men made significant contributions to education, research and innovative practices. The School evolved into Tuskegee University in 1985 and became a centre of excellence in, for example, aerospace engineering and bioethics.

The second episode began in 1932 when the U.S. Public Health Services recruited 623 African American men from the Tuskegee area to take part in a study to research ‘the effects of untreated syphilis in the Negro male’. The research ‘subjects’ were not told the truth as to what the study was about nor were they offered treatment when antibiotics became available in the 1940’s. The study was not exposed until 1972, by which time many men had died and had passed on syphilis to their partners and children. In 1997 President Clinton apologised on behalf of the nation and awarded a grant to set up a bioethics center at Tuskegee saying: ‘the center will serve as a museum of study and support efforts to address its legacy and strengthen bioethics training.’ The word ‘legacy’ is central to the activities of the Tuskegee bioethics center

The center logo, the Sankofa bird – a ‘mythic bird that flies forward while looking backward with the egg (symbolising the future) in its mouth’ – represents beautifully its ethos. There is a strong sense of responsibility and orientation towards not forgetting the injustices and exploitation of the past and looking towards a future where bioethics is as real as the activities of Washington and Carver: engaging with the community, teaching and conducting research that addresses the real concerns of African-Americans and those who are underprivileged.

So back to you and the man in the bar…..

I’d love to know how you said you’d respond so do email and tell me. You can, most likely, guess the one word response I am suggesting to refute the man’s view? It’s ‘Tuskegee’. There are clearly ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ and ethics is not just a matter of ‘opinion’.

This week I’m off to Kansas to a conference entitled ‘Journey to the Center of Bioethics and the Humanities’. So will that be ‘over the rainbow’ I wonder? More next week.