Quinnipiac University

The Problem with Race-based Medicine: A Conversation with Dorothy Roberts

Starts February 23, 2021 on 7:00 PM (ET)

Ends February 23, 2021 on 8:00 PM (ET)

Dorothy Roberts

Join a discussion on the issues with race-based medicine in Quinnipiac's keynote Black History Month event, hosted by Dr. Abayomi Akanji, professor of medical sciences in our Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine.

Roberts, an acclaimed scholar of race, gender and the law, is Quinnipiac’s Black History Month keynote speaker. The virtual discussion is free and open to the public.

The medical profession has long defined disease and treated patients according to race. Doctors continue to defend this practice by arguing that race serves as a helpful proxy for underlying clinical factors. However, Roberts traces race-based medicine to false assumptions about innate biological differences and to ugly justifications for slavery and medical exploitation.

Today, race-based medicine diverts attention and resources from the social determinants that cause appalling racial gaps in health. Roberts calls for doctors to abandon this backward legacy and to join efforts to end health inequities caused by racism, not by genetic difference.

“Our nation's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the glaring race and class disparities in access to quality health care,” said Don C. Sawyer III, vice president for equity and inclusion at Quinnipiac. “Systemic social inequalities have created a landscape where communities of color have a higher risk of death from the virus. This is not a result of their race, but is directly connected to racist policies and practices. 

“Dr. Roberts is one of the leading experts on race, racism and medicine, and it is an honor to have her as our BHM speaker,” Sawyer added. “Her insights will help us as we move forward with reimagining a more equitable and just future for our institution and the larger society.”

Roberts joined the University of Pennsylvania in 2012 as its 14th Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor with joint appointments in the Departments of Africana Studies and Sociology and the Law School, where she holds the inaugural Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander chair. She is also the founding director of the Penn Program on Race, Science & Society in the Center for Africana Studies.

Her pathbreaking work in law and public policy focuses on urgent, contemporary issues in health, social justice and bioethics, especially as they impact the lives of women, children and African Americans. Her major books include, “Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century,” “Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare” and “Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty”

Roberts, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale and a law degree from Harvard, is the author of more than 100 scholarly articles and book chapters. She is also the co-editor of six books on topics such as constitutional law and women and the law.

Roberts serves on the board of directors of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Her work has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Science Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Harvard Program on Ethics and the Professions, and the Stanford Center for Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity.

Recent recognitions of her work include the 2017 election to the National Academy of Medicine, the Society of Family Planning 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award and the American Psychiatric Association 2015 Solomon Carter Fuller Award.

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