Race without Racism: On Assessing Race as a Risk Factor

An interview with Yekki Song 

As part of Vital’s series on Racism in Science, we interviewed medical humanities researcher Yekki Song, a 6th year MD-PhD student at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, where she studies how society shapes and influences the practice of medicine.

We spoke with her about a newly-published paper she co-authored in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery, one that caused her to begin questioning the way in which she and her colleagues had used race as a key predictor of health outcomes 
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Racism in Science?

We at Vital are excited to announce a new series, beginning soon, on Racism in Science.

It might surprise a great many people to learn what social scientists have long maintained, that race has little if any biological basis. If, as Kittles and Benn-Torres explain race has “no clear biological definition yet strong social and cultural meanings,” what does it mean today to study race in science, medicine, and health? Continue reading →

“Haiti is Not a Theater of Suffering”: An Interview with Jonathan M. Katz

When it comes to international aid, attempts to improve public health, assist in development, and respond to natural disasters can be thwarted by political strife and global economic inequality that stretch far beyond the control of the individuals whose lives are at stake. In this context, expertise in the culture, history, and language of a country, in addition to scientific and medical knowledge, can go a long way toward improving the potential success of public health policies and interventions.

The cholera epidemic that spread in Haiti nine months after the 2010 earthquake, for example, was started by U.N. peacekeeping forces, but only six years after its initial outbreak did the U.N. admit it played a role in the affair. In an effort to understand how deeply-rooted assumptions about a culture can have significant impact on public health policy, Lesley S. Curtis, Vital’s Editor-in-Chief and scholar of Haitian Studies, interviewed Jonathan M. Katz, the journalist whose investigation first revealed the U.N.’s responsibility for the epidemic and the author of The Big Truck that Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster. Continue reading →

Healthcare Reform Then and Now

What American History Can Tell Us about Health and Social Change

Today, health and healthcare are hotly debated political issues. We are also witnessing a resurgence of civil rights movements that call attention to race, gender, sexuality, ability, age, and structural inequality. American history shows us, though, that grassroots, patient-centered change actually flourishes in times of concentrated civil rights activity. What we can learn from this history is that health is not merely an objective state of physical being. It is also, and perhaps first and foremost, a lived experience in a political, economic, and social climate. Continue reading →

Reflections on Self-Care in a Time of Hatred

It was a comfortable summer night in West Philly.

I sat on my block eating ribs, laughing with family, and watching as my younger cousins playfully ran up the sidewalk. Old school music blared from the radio nearby. It was perfectly peaceful.

Suddenly the music was interrupted. The radio host gravely announced that the verdict was about to be read. I sat frozen—prepared for the worst, yet optimistic for the best. Continue reading →