How Not To Talk About Race And Genetics

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Letters, Media Archive on 2018-03-31 02:37Z by Steven

How Not To Talk About Race And Genetics


Micah Baldwin / Via Flickr: micahb37

Race has long been a potent way of defining differences between human beings. But science and the categories it constructs do not operate in a political vacuum.

This open letter was produced by a group of 68 scientists and researchers. The full list of signatories can be found below.

In his newly published book Who We Are and How We Got Here, geneticist David Reich engages with the complex and often fraught intersections of genetics with our understandings of human differences — most prominently, race.

He admirably challenges misrepresentations about race and genetics made by the likes of former New York Times science writer Nicholas Wade and Nobel Laureate James Watson. As an eminent scientist, Reich clearly has experience with the genetics side of this relationship. But his skillfulness with ancient and contemporary DNA should not be confused with a mastery of the cultural, political, and biological meanings of human groups.

As a group of 68 scholars from disciplines ranging across the natural sciences, medical and population health sciences, social sciences, law, and humanities, we would like to make it clear that Reich’s understanding of “race” — most recently in a Times column warning that “it is simply no longer possible to ignore average genetic differences among ‘races’” — is seriously flawed…

Read the entire letter here.

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Teaching medical students to challenge ‘unscientific’ racial categories

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2016-03-11 22:58Z by Steven

Teaching medical students to challenge ‘unscientific’ racial categories

STAT: Reporting from the frontiers of health and medicine

Ike Swetlitz

Dr. Brooke Cunningham talks about race to medical students at the University of Minnesota.
Jenn Ackerman for Stat

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Medical students looking to score high on their board exams sometimes get a bit of uncomfortable advice: Embrace racial stereotypes.

“You see ‘African American,’ automatically just circle ‘sickle cell,’” said Nermine Abdelwahab, a first-year student at the University of Minnesota Medical School, recounting tips she’s heard from older classmates describing the “sad reality” of the tests.

Medical school curricula traditionally leave little room for nuanced discussions about the impact of race and racism on health, physicians and sociologists say. Instead, students learn to see race as a diagnostic shortcut, as lectures, textbooks, and scientific journal articles divide patients by racial categories, reinforcing the idea that race is biological. That mind-set can lead to misdiagnoses, such as treating sickle cell anemia as a largely “black” disease.

“Right now, students are learning an inaccurate and unscientific definition of race,” said Dorothy Roberts, a law and sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who coauthored a recent paper in Science arguing for an end to the use of biological concepts of race in human genetics research.

“It’s simply not true that human beings are naturally divided into genetically distinct races,” Roberts said. “So it is not good medical practice to treat patients that way.”

Change is starting to come, but slowly…

……Cunningham also traced racial stereotypes through centuries of medical science, from an 1850s medical definition of drapetomania — “the disease causing Negroes to run away” — to the modern day, when a mainstream formula to measure kidney function and a common test of lung capacity differ for “whites” and “blacks.”

“I think it’s revolutionary to be teaching that way to first-year medical students,” said Dr. Helena Hansen, a professor with dual appointments in both New York University’s anthropology department and the medical school’s psychiatry department. She said Cunningham is one of a small but growing number of faculty members challenging the status quo.

Hansen said Cunningham’s lecture “fundamentally challenges” a central premise in clinical medicine: that racial categories are well-defined and universally applicable…

Read the entire article here.

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Addressing Racial/Ethnic Health Disparities Best Practices for Clinical Care and Medical Education in the 21st Century

Posted in Health/Medicine/Genetics, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2013-09-14 18:21Z by Steven

Addressing Racial/Ethnic Health Disparities Best Practices for Clinical Care and Medical Education in the 21st Century

University of Texas, Austin
2013-09-23 through 2013-09-24

One of the primary goals of the US Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health, and many public health programs is the reduction of health disparities in the United States. However, significant racial/ethnic disparities persist in the prevalence of disease, access to medical care, quality of care, and health outcomes for the most common causes of death (including cardiovascular and lung disease, infectious disease, cancer, diabetes, and accidents). At this conference, nationally-recognized speakers will discuss the causes of such disparities and describe new approaches in clinical care and medical education that improve care, achieve better health outcomes, and reduce racial/ethnic health disparities. We will also discuss how these best practices can be incorporated into medical training at the new Dell Medical School at The University of Texas and at other medical schools around the country. One key goal of this conference is to help design a cutting-edge curriculum that will better prepare medical students to meet the challenges and opportunities of 21st century medicine.

Conference registration is open to anyone interested in attending this event. See the Continuing Medical Education (CME) tab for information regarding continuing education for the September 23rd portion of the conference.

The second day of the conference (September 24) is open to invited participants only. Discussions and working groups on the second day will focus on developing new pedagogical approaches and innovative learning modules for the pre-clinical curriculum at the Dell Medical School, with the goal of more effectively integrating training on human genomic variation, race/ethnicity, health disparities, and social/environmental determinants of health into the medical curriculum.


For more information, click here.

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