Gender, Race and Class in Medical Research and Practice

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This course is under review for 2021. Course registration will open to accepted students once courses are confirmed.

Course Description

This course looks at the ways in which historic ideologies about gender, race and class have influenced the practice of medicine. Thinking sociologically about the intersections of these and the practice of medicine, we will explore how medical research has justified, for example, involuntary medical experimentation on the basis of these views, and the ways in which medical practice itself treats human bodies differently and on the basis of race and gender. As we delve into the remarkable innovations in science that arose out of a racially discriminatory past, students will come to see the multiple explanations that frequently stand behind a single phenomenon, develop their critical thinking and reasoning skills, and discover their voice and realize their ability to make a positive contribution to humankind.

We will consider the implications influencing certain racial and ethnic groups’ historical mistrust of the medical field in order to arrive at a better understanding of the often hidden factors impacting race relations within the practice of medicine (and more broadly). Drawing on numerous examples of abusive experimentation, we will explore how scientific thought and the dominant attitude towards black bodies led racial experimentation to be viewed as an acceptable practice in the service of medical advances. These events include surgical experimentation on slaves, forced sterilization, exposure to radiation and syphilis, and the cloning of Henrietta Lack’s cells for future research and profit.

By the end of the course, students will have developed an appreciation of the social and cultural dimensions of science and its impact on the practice of medicine, leaving them with a new found knowledge base for understanding the world around them. They will encounter the ethical dilemmas entailed in the racialized research that has pushed medical science forward and brought about innovations, and begin thinking about the future of medical science and medical practice with a new, sociologically infused, awareness.

Prerequisites: This course will be of particular interest to students intending to enter the field of medicine, who have an interest in public health, or want to know more about the ways in which historic attitudes about race find their way into scientific research and medical practice. There are no pre-requisites, though given the nature of the material, best suited to rising juniors and seniors.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CESO0939
  • Length: 2 weeks

Program Information

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Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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