HIS 199 Bad Medicine, Race and Tuskegee

In this course we will dig deeply into multiple dimensions of a single historical event: the Tuskegee syphilis study, which ran from 1932 to 1972. In the study, medical researchers with the U.S. Public Health Service recorded the "natural history" of syphilis by observing African American men suffering from the disease. The researchers did not inform the men of their illness, and did not provide medical treatment to them even as effective treatments became available. The study was widely known and its results published regularly in prestigious medical journals. Yet when it was "exposed" in 1972, the Tuskegee study immediately became a scandal that helped push reforms in research on human subjects. How and why did the study happen? What social changes led to the study becoming a scandal? What were the long-term consequences of America's troubled tradition of racist medical research? How does the Tuskegee study, ended nearly half a century ago, continue to matter today? Through this academic exploration, students will not only gain critical thinking skills but also skills in studying and time management, research, writing, and speaking.