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Deleso Alford Washington

Deleso Alford Washington, Examining the “Stick” of Accreditation for Medical Schools Through Reproductive Justice Lens: a Transformative Remedy for Teaching the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, 26 Journal of Civil Rights & Economic Development 153 (Fall 2011) (207 Footnotes)



First, it is important to note that the “The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Male Negro” is the original name for the study that is commonly known as “The Tuskegee Study.” The shortening of the official name of the study not only diminishes the truth behind “untreated syphilis” and specific targeting of a gender and racial group (“the male negro”), but, it also speaks to the need to address Black women and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. This omission of Black women in the legal, medical, and historical narratives of the Tuskegee Study illustrates the marginalization of Black women in medical research and education, which this Article seeks to address. Therefore, this Article will address a traditionally overlooked, historically marginalized and devalued aspect of our society: women in general and in particular, Black women, specifically in relation to healthcare, research and medical education.

The Tuskegee Syphilis Study, like the traditional recounting of the event, failed to acknowledge the direct impact of untreated syphilis in women. Arguably, the most infamous biomedical research study ever performed by the United States government is the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, which occurred between 1932 and 1972 in Macon County, Alabama. The stated purpose of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study was to determine the effects of untreated syphilis on Black men in Macon County, Alabama. Accordingly, historical and legal accounts have primarily told the stories of *155 the male participants of the Study. However, an overlooked yet important question looms: What about the women of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study? To date, there have not been consistent and adequate substantive challenges to the omission of the women affected by the study, whether in historical accounts or contemporary bioethical discourse. This Article fills the gap in this historical and contemporary omission by calling for a reproductive justice framework to not only critically examine the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, but also to offer curricular content on cultural competency to aid medical schools in their quest to attain accreditation. This approach engenders an identifiable “space” that acknowledges the Black women who also sustained injuries from the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and centers the reproductive health issues pertaining to women of color in a medical educational setting that will “respond to the need to ensure that all people entering the health care system receive equitable and effective treatment in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner.”

Medical schools must deliver a culturally competent curriculum for purposes of accreditation. This article will shed light on race, gender, and class disparities in healthcare. Specifically, I will address the marginalization of women in the historical and contemporary recounting of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. This Article contends that the Tuskegee Syphilis Study's failure to acknowledge the direct impact on women requires a transformative remedy to address cultural competence accreditation mandates for medical education.

Section I critically examines the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Section II focuses on current medical schools' accreditation standards on cultural *156 competence, and their stated criteria. Finally, Section III explores the notion of a reproductive justice framework that will serve as a transformative remedy to address current medical education accreditation standards. The implementation of an inclusive curricular content that acknowledges the direct impact of the women in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study can serve as a step toward addressing a historically accepted omission that impairs the ability of medical schools to satisfy current cultural competence accreditation standards.