SSC495: Final Essay

Professor Matthew W. Dunne

In this paper, you will consider and contextualize the personal viewpoint of one individual’s experience of health, disease and healthcare in contemporary American society. Using a personal or biographical essay from the “Narrative Matters” section of the journal Health Affairs, you will discuss and explain how the main issues raised by your author relate to the broader historical context in our current culture, including a comparison to a relevant past historical context. Your paper should have a political, socio-economic, cultural theme that recognizes the social determinants of health. Your paper should connect society and health issues (as this whole class does).

Due Date: You must submit an electronic copy to at the end of the Week 8 module.

Main Components of the Assignment:

Pick a Health Affairs article from the “Narrative Matters” section. (
The journal describes this section in this manner: “The Narrative Matters section of Health Affairs publishes personal essays (literary nonfiction) based on firsthand encounters that have a health policy aspect. These “policy narratives” take a story (or anecdote) and grow it beyond one person to include a big-picture view of the subject. The purpose of the Narrative Matters section is to put a human face on the health policy discussions in the other parts of Health Affairs.”

NOTE: **Do NOT pick one of the articles from “Narrative Matters” in the Health Affairs journal that is already listed on the SSC495 syllabus

· Present and describe your article: you should make sure to identify who the author is in terms of their personal/professional background, explain the viewpoint of the author and address the main themes of the article. What is the main thesis/argument of the article and what kinds of evidence does the author use to support their thesis/argument? Consider your own reaction to this author’s personal viewpoint as well.
· Contextualize the article: What components of this article make it clear that it was written in the present day? What does it tell us about our current culture in terms of health policy, the public health issues that matter to Americans in the 21st century, the healthcare system and healthcare professionals, and the diseases and conditions that strike a chord with the American public?
· Compare this viewpoint with a past time period, and reflect on how this article would have been different if it had been written at a different specified time.

The paper must:

· be 4-5 pages long;

· use the Chicago Manual of Style or the MLA Manual of Style format for both in-text citations and a “Works Cited” page;

· reference at least two course readings.


· The Academic resource center and writing center ( is available for one on one consultation and is

See discussions, stats, and author profiles for this publication at:

Learning About Medicine And Race

Article  in  Health Affairs · March 2004

DOI: 10.1377/hlthaff.23.2.220 · Source: PubMed




1 author:

Some of the authors of this publication are also working on these related projects:

Bioterrorism and Infectious Disease View project

Narrative View project

David Malebranche

Morehouse School of Medicine



All content following this page was uploaded by David Malebranche on 18 November 2018.

The user has requested enhancement of the downloaded file.

Narrative Matters

DOI: 10.1377/HLTHAFF.2020.01311

This, Too, Is What
Racism Feels Like
After George Floyd’s killing, a physician reflects on how the health
effects of racism become embodied for her and other Black Americans.

t was 9 a.m. on May 26, 2020,
in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I
logged into my first Zoom meet-
ing of the day, a gathering of my
community advisory board. I

opened the meeting, as I typically do,
with check-ins, particularly important
during a pandemic. I mentioned some
upsides of staying at home—probably in
an effort to mitigate what came next.
I shared that my cousin, a nurse who
worked in a New Jersey nursing home,
had recently died from coronavirus dis-
ease 2019 (COVID-19). His employer
had failed to provide him with sufficient

personal protective equipment. I felt the
tears well up in my eyes but quickly com-
posed myself, relieved that we were still
in the first few minutes of the call. Peo-
ple were still signing on, so only a few
caught a glimpse of my emotion.
One or two others gave their intros

and updates, and then another joined.
She explained that she was late joining
the call because she had been on the
phone with her distressed son. No wor-
ries. Family first. Totally understand-
able. She continued, “I am angry this
morning. … The police killed another
unarmed Black man.”

My mind swirled. I had not heard the
news. I often listen to NPR in the morn-
ings, but I had not done so that day. The
woman’s words began to blur together
after she said, “The police killed anoth-
er….” I felt like I’d been struck with a
body blow for which I had not braced,
like the punch that leaves a boxer dazed
and teetering on his feet.
I needed a moment, but I did not say

that to the group. Physicians learn early
to compartmentalize. Displaying emo-
tion at work can be a liability, particu-
larly in biomedicine, especially as a
Black woman, and especially as a re-
searcher. So I tried to press on, to speak
with the controlled language and self-
presentation that is normative, even
when it’s off the mark. My community
advisory board meets only every month
or so, and we had items to attend to on
the agenda.
I briefly expressed my anger and sad-

ness, and I mentioned the obvious tie to
our work on racism as a health risk fac-
tor. While that was accurate, I immedi-
ately knew that it did not make anyone
feel the slightest bit better. I found no
solace in it myself, and perhaps that was
what cracked the veneer. The tears came
full on this time. I covered my eyes with
my hands to prevent the tears from fall-
ing, pursed my lips tight to hold in what
wouldhave been ascream if Iwerealone,
and took a deep breath as I let the mo-
ment set in, instead of pushing it away.
And the community advisory board,

which is predominantly Black, did what
it always does. It shored me up. Black
board members unapologetically ex-
pressed their anger and frustration, not
only with the police, but with business,
and in this

Racism and Research: The Case of the Tuskegee
Syphilis Study

Brandt, Allan M. 1978. “Racism and research: The case of the Tuskegee Syphilis study.” The
Hastings Center Report 8(6): 21-29.

Published Version

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Racism and Research: The Case of
the Tuskegee Syphilis Study


In 1932 the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) initiated
an experiment in Macon County, Alabama, to determine the
natural course of untreated, latent syphilis in black males.
The test comprised 400 syphilitic men, as well as 200 unin-
fected men who served as controls. The first published report
of the study appeared in 1936 with subsequent papers issued
every four to six years, through the 1960s. When penicillin
became widely available by the early 1950s as the preferred
treatment for syphilis, the men did not receive therapy. In
fact on several occasions, the USPHS actually sought to pre-
vent treatment. Moreover, a committee at the federally op-
erated Center for Disease Control decided in 1969 that the
study should be continued. Only in 1972, when accounts of
the study first appeared in the national press, did the Depart-
ment of Health, Education and Welfare halt the experiment.
At that time seventy-four of the test subjects were still alive;
at least twenty-eight, but perhaps more than 100, had died
directly from advanced syphilitic lesions.1 In August 1972,
HEW appointed an investigatory panel which issued a report
the following year. The panel found the study to have been
“ethically unjustified,” and argued that penicillin should
have been provided to the men.2

This article attempts to place the Tuskegee Study in a his-
torical context and to assess its ethical implications. Despite
the media attention which the study received, the HEW Final
Report, and the criticism expressed by several professional
organizations, the experiment has

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