‘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 https://southernspaces.org/2004/overview-religion-and-us-south. 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 https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=667 ).

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 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09fy6m9).

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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qs1DM3g2ZqA).

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 – https://apha.confex.com/apha/2017/meetingapp.cgi/Session/51560 ). 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.

Some of you know that I’ve written on ‘slow ethics’. Most of you know that I don’t do ‘slow’ well.

A woman on a mission, it might be said, with high expectations and too little patience. Taking not enough time to enjoy the sunshine, listen to birdsong or to appreciate the serenity of her surroundings. Taking also too little time to ask and to listen and to hear the stories of the people around her.

But it seems I am on a treatment programme of sorts here, a programme that befits a sabbatical and that  enables me to do ‘slow’, to savour the experiences, to take every opportunity to engage and to learn as much as possible from this rich cross-cultural experience.

This second week at Tuskegee University began with news of a massacre in Las Vegas.  The week ended with a  Convocation, a celebration of student achievement, that went on despite the best efforts of Hurricane Nate. The Convocation was on the other side of the campus and I set off through the wind and driving rain to get there in good time. Within seconds my yellow umbrella was blown inside out and my waterproof jacket proved not to be.

But how worth it was the Convocation? There were about 400 students on the ‘honor roll’ receiving achievement awards from faculties of:  nursing and allied health, agriculture, architecture, business and IT, arts and education. And the ‘storm’ was very much present. Not as Hurricane Nate but as the central metaphor in the keynote address from Rev Wendy R Coleman – a keynote ‘speaker’ who sings like no other and who had students and parents in the palm of her hand as she talked of the value of  life event ‘storms’ and their aftermath.

At every turn, I have been reminded this week of the very special historical, social and ethical identity of Tuskegee University and the pride, generosity and commitment of all I have met here.

So what has ‘practising slow’ helped me to appreciate?

I am learning of the Bioethics Center’s outreach work that prepares disadvantaged local teenagers to get into college, hearing stories of care-giving by generations of African-American women, being exposed to questions regarding racial bias in debates about gun control, reading recommended poetry  and  learning a little of the rich history of the surrounding area – from Native Americans to the American Revolution and to the American Civil Rights Movement.

You don’t need to be here long to appreciate why Tuskegee bioethics has a broader remit and is characterised by ideas of service, remembrance, non-complacency and social justice (see http://tuskegeebioethics.org/about/history/).

Understanding African-American perspectives on bioethics will take longer.

Too that end, I will continue to practise ‘slow’.

Until next week…

P.S – If you have time to read poetry this week the excellent recommendation I was given was to the work of Langton Hughes (https://www.poemhunter.com/langston-hughes/) . If you don’t know ‘Entirely’ by Louis MacNeice you might like to check this out too as, for me, it is in keeping with ‘slow’ – https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/22601/entirely

By Jaleah Rutledge
Tuskegee University Class of 2018

Each year in April, the Office of Minority Health within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services celebrates National Minority Health Month to raise awareness and promote information about health disparities that affect racial and ethnic minorities. This month long observance started in 1915 when Booker T. Washington, founding principal of Tuskegee Institute (today historic Tuskegee University) initiated the National Negro Health Week. Dr. Booker T. Washington affirmed, “Without health and long life, all else fails.”  He was persistent and encouraged the participation of a variety of organizations such as churches, schools, professional associations and local health departments. During the 20th century in April of 1915, National Negro Health Week emerged as a dominant force on the national level in raising awareness about the social determinants of health within the African American population. The goal was to create a collaboration among stakeholders, health care providers, and across public and private sectors to improve the well-being and health of African Americans who were descendants of slaves and had experienced poor or no health care in particular. Sandra Crouse Quinn and Stephen Thomas wrote a thought-provoking, informative account of the historic health awareness week in the 2001 publication of Minority Health Today that can be read here in its entirety. National Negro Improvement Health Week evolved and became the impetus for National Minority Health Month which raises health awareness about all people of color in the United States.

Today in the 21st century, the Office of Minority Health focuses on a specific theme each year during National Minority Health Month. The theme last year in 2016 was “Accelerating Health Equity for the Nation,” which conveyed a sense of urgency and dedication towards advancing the United States to achieve health equity.

This year the theme is “Bridging Health Equity Across Communities”. This year the activities included a twitter town hall #Bridge2Health that was hosted on April 12th, at 1PM EST. On April 25, 2017, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities is hosting a twitter chat from 2p-3pm EST. The Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health will also present the annual Thunderclap to raise awareness on minority health and health disparities via a variety of social media outlets. For more information for this year’s Minority Health Month, please check the Office of Minority Health website at https://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/ .




Tuskegee, Alabama (March 20, 2017) – The Voices for Our Fathers Legacy Foundation (VFOFLF) and the National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care at Tuskegee University will sponsor a Community Day of Healing and Memorial Service, from 6:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. CDT, April 3, 2017 at the Chisholm Community Recreational Center, located at 3031 County Road 69 in Tuskegee, Alabama. This commemoration is in honor of the sacrifices of 623 African American men from rural Macon County, Alabama who were victimized and treated as human guinea pigs in the United States Public Health Service Syphilis Study (USPHS) at Tuskegee for forty-years, from 1932-1972. The VFOFLF is the non-profit foundation founded by the descendants of the USPHS Syphilis Study.

The theme for The Community Day of Healing and Memorial Service on April 3, 2017 is “Voices Moving Forward with a Purpose and Action.” This will be the first time the entire community of Macon County will come together since the national apology was given on May 16, 1997. The Community Program, Memorial Service and Solemn Candle Light Ceremony will provide reflections, inspirations and healing offered by descendants of the syphilis study.

“This is the first descendants’ sponsored program to honor the lives of our fathers, grandfathers, great grandfathers and uncles who sacrificed their lives. The occasion will also serve as a reminder, this type of unethical study will never be allowed to happen again. These men without their consent, unknowingly sacrificed their health, some of them lost their lives, while others impacted their families by passing on the disease to them,” said Lillie Head, Co-Chair of the VFOFLF.

The year 2017 is the 20th Anniversary of the 1997 U.S. Presidential Apology when President William Clinton on May 16, 1997, hosted at the White House, at that time the living survivors of the study, Herman Shaw, Fred Simmons, Frederick Moss and Ernest Hendon and their families attended the White House Ceremony. Ernest Hendon was not able to travel to the White House but his brother, North Hendon represented him.

“Each year we honor the men who were in the so- called study and their families during the Month of April which is also National Minority Health. This year the Community Day of Healing will be held on April 3rd through April 7th. The annual Public Health Ethics Intensive Course

(PHEIC) which, is a component of the Annual Commemoration begins on April 4 and ends April 7th. The PHEIC is designed for the family descendants, students, local community residents, undergraduate and graduate students, health professionals, academicians, faith leaders, ethicists, researchers, and community advocates to discuss pressing ethics issues that challenges local, state, regional, national and global communities will end at 12 noon on

April 7th. From 12 noon – 2:00 p.m., the Annual National Apology Commemoration Luncheon will be held at Tuskegee University and Dr. David Satcher 16th U.S. Surgeon General, who actually asked President Clinton for the Apology, will be the keynote luncheon speaker. It is the National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care’s distinct privilege and honor to collaborate with the descendants family members of the men who were in the study,” emphasized, Rueben C. Warren, DDS, MPH, DrP.H., MDIV, Professor and Director of the National Center for Bioethics at Tuskegee University.

The Voices for Our Fathers Legacy Foundation will also pay a lasting and sustaining tribute to the legacy of the men who were in the study. The Foundation will give (6) $500.00 scholarships to under graduate and graduate student descendants this year as the VFOFLC Moves Forward, bringing forth good deeds through education. A $3000.00 Award from the Henrietta Lacks Foundation helped to provide the necessary funds for these scholarships. To be eligible for a Voices for Our Fathers Legacy Scholarship, an applicant, must be a descendant of one the participants in the United States Public Health Service Syphilis Study conducted in Macon County/Tuskegee, Alabama. Applicants must have a 3.0 average or better on a 4.0 scale, must be graduating high school senior or a student in an accredited college or university pursing a degree in health-related fields. Applicants must complete the scholarship application and present in writing a need for financial assistance. Scholarship recipients will be announced in the spring of 2017. Application deadline is March 25, 2017.


Voices for Our Fathers Legacy Foundation (VFOFLF) is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization established in the Spring of 2014 at the Annual 1997 U.S. Presidential Apology Commemoration which is sponsored by the National Center of Bioethics in Research and Health Care at Tuskegee University. The Foundation is committed to transforming the legacy of the infamous unethical study of the United States Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee. The VFOFLF members are descendants of the men who were in the study and supporters of the foundation.

The National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care at Tuskegee University (http://tuskegeebioethics.org/) is the only U.S. Presidential mandated bioethics center in the United States.

The Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice at Brown University invites applications for a one-year position (2017-2018) as the Ruth J. Simmons Postdoctoral Fellow in Slavery and Justice.

The Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice (CSSJ) is a scholarly research center with a public humanities mission. Recognizing that racial and chattel slavery were central to the historical formation of the Americas and the modern world, the CSSJ creates a space for the interdisciplinary study of the historical forms of slavery while also examining how these legacies shape our contemporary world. We are also attentive to contemporary forms of human bondage and injustice. The Center is devoted to interdisciplinary scholarly research around issues of racial slavery, contemporary forms of injustice, as well as freedom.

Applicants should have Ph.D. in any humanities or social science discipline and have received their degree within the last five years (or will obtain a Ph.D. by June 2017) and work on questions concerning the historical formations of slavery in global or comparative terms; issues concerning contemporary forms of indentured servitude; philosophical, historical, and theoretical questions concerning slavery, justice, and freedom.  Consideration will also be given to candidates whose work pays special attention to contemporary issues and legacies of slavery.  Applicants working on questions of gender, contemporary racial formations, public history, and memory are welcome.  The successful applicant will be expected to be an active participant in the Center’s regular brown bag lunch series, and will have the option to teach a course in the semester of his/her choosing.

Search Opens December 15.  Applications received by February 15th will receive full consideration.

Application Instructions

Applicants should apply online at:  apply.interfolio.com/39600

Please include a cover letter, current CV, a writing sample, and three letters of reference.


Applicants should have Ph.D. in any humanities or social science discipline and have received their degree within the last five years (or will obtain a Ph.D. by June 2017) and work on questions concerning the historical formations of slavery in global or comparative terms; issues concerning contemporary forms of indentured servitude; philosophical, historical, and theoretical questions concerning slavery, justice, and freedom.  Consideration will also be given to candidates whose work pays special attention to contemporary issues and legacies of slavery.  Applicants working on questions of gender, contemporary racial formations, public history, and memory are welcome.  The successful applicant will be expected to be an active participant in the Center’s regular brown bag lunch series, and will have the option to teach a course in the semester of his/her choosing.

Application Instructions

Applicants should apply online at:  apply.interfolio.com/39600

Please include a current CV, a writing sample and three letters of reference.