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Presidential apology commemoration, bioethics course to begin Tuesday

April 09, 2018

Dr. David Hodge, National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care
Michael Tullier, APR, Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing

Front entrance of Bioethics Center building at Tuskegee University

Commemorating the 21st anniversary of the 1997 Presidential Apology for the U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee will serve as a capstone for this week’s 7th Annual Public Health Ethics Intensive Course. The four-day course, held on the Tuskegee University campus April 10-13, will address historical topics relating to bioethics and the resulting issues of trust and access to public health networks among underserved populations.

“Ethics across Generations” is the theme for the 7th Annual Public Health Ethics Intensive Course, hosted by the Tuskegee University’s National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care. Conference activities will be held in the Bioethics Auditorium of the university’s John A. Kenney Hall — ending with a commemoration luncheon at noon on Friday.

“This conference, like the center itself, strives to promote contemporary racial and ethnic equity through various spheres of ethics, as well as the lens of past instances of social injustice and ongoing health care debates,” said Dr. Rueben Warren, the center’s director and a professor in bioethics. “Stressing the importance of commemorating the president’s apology for the syphilis study among students, scholars, practitioners and the public is just one way this annual course seeks to increase trust while avoiding events like this in the future.”

The Public Health Ethics Intensive Course provides participants with both academically and professionally rigorous content focused on the theory and practice of various spheres of ethics. These spheres include public health ethics, pragmatic bioethics, care ethics, and research ethics — focusing specifically on the influence of race and ethnicity, gender and sex, income, class and geographical location.

Dr. David Hodge, the center’s associate director of education and an associate professor in the National Bioethics Center, emphasized that the course is not limited to health care professionals and researchers, but open to all scientific, academic, policy administrators, faith leadership and community advocates. It is suited for anyone whose work helps to enforce and protect the research principles of informed consent, confidentiality, privacy and public policy, social justice and how they apply in both qualitative and quantitative research. Those attending the entire course will qualify for up to 22.5 contact hours for continuing education purposes.

“Through various presentations and interactive discussions, the course will explore relationships with social justice and the needs of individuals, groups and communities locally, nationally and globally — especially vulnerable and susceptible populations,” Hodge said.

The four-day course will feature more than 20 speakers and moderators who will share their perspectives on topics ranging from ethics and misinformation to mass incarceration. The presenters include, but not limited to:

  • Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu’s opening plenary session on Tuesday will address the topic of ethics and miseducation. He is an author, and founder and president of African American Images. The Chicago-based publishing company sponsors dozens of workshops helping educators and parents develop practical solutions to the problems of child-rearing in what he perceives to be a racist society.
  • Dr. Randall Bailey, who will provide a response to Dr. Chu Chu Onwuachi-Sanders’ ethics and reproductive justice session on Tuesday. Bailey currently was the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Hebrew Bible at Atlanta’s Interdenominational Theological Center, as well as researcher who examines the intersections of race, gender, class, sexuality, nationality and power in biblical text. Onwuachi-Sanders is a pediatrician and medical epidemiologist.
  • Dr. Alicia Georges, RN, FAAN, will provide a response to Dr. Carl Hill’s presentation on ethics, eldercare and quality of life on Thursday. In addition to her role as AARP’s president-elect, she serves as a professor and chair of the Department of Nursing at Lehman College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She also is president of the National Black Nurses Foundation and a past president of the National Black Nurses Association. Hill serves as director of the National Institute on Aging’s Office of Special Populations.
  • Dr. Rosetta Ross’ presentation on Thursday will address the concept of connecting ethics across generations. She is a professor of religion at Spelman College, an author and a United Methodist clergywoman.

Online conference registration remains open at, or attendees can register onsite upon their arrival. Registration options and pricing include full-conference attendance to single-day attendance. Special pricing for students, Macon County residents and faith-based organization representatives also is available. The website also provides an updated conference schedule-at-a-glance.

The course will conclude at noon on Friday, April 13, with the commemorative luncheon marking the 21st anniversary of the 1997 U.S. Presidential Apology for the U.S. Public Health Service’s Syphilis Study at Tuskegee. The luncheon will feature descendants of Tuskegee Syphilis Study subjects, who following the 1997 apology established the Voices for Our Fathers Legacy Foundation. The foundation is dedicated to honoring the unconsented study participants as well as preserving history and enriching education in clinical and public health research. Separate registration for the Commemoration Luncheon is available as part of online registration.

The “United States Public Health Service Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male,” spanning from 1932 to 1972, is the longest and the most immoral health and medical treatment study ever conducted in U.S. history. This non-therapeutic study of the progress of untreated syphilis in human beings recruited poor African-American men living in rural Tuskegee and Macon County, Alabama, by keeping them uninformed of their syphilis status and untreated for the disease — all without their informed consent. Naturally, the physical mistreatment and non-treatment for syphilis contributed to generational health problems, as well as ill feelings and mistrust by the families in these communities. And, it continues to impact how and why African-Americans and other minorities are reluctant to participate in clinical studies and biomedical research.

The National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care at Tuskegee University was opened in January 1999 as a partial response to the apology of President William J. Clinton for the U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee. The center strives to transform the burden of the study’s negative legacy by collaborating with local, regional, national and international communities to address ethical and human rights issues in science, health, and social justice, particularly as they impact people of color.

For more information about the center or how to register for the conference, visit, or contact Hodge at or 334.724.4564.

© 2018, Tuskegee University