Health leaders in Tuskegee to discuss medical research transparency

Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 9:37 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 9, 2023 at 10:33 PM CST
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TUSKEGEE, Ala. (WSFA) - Health leaders are in Tuskegee discussing medical research and its impact on the African American community. It is a part of a Macon County health research symposium called “Moving Us Forward!”

“We have to acknowledge that there have been events throughout history, historical events throughout history, that have impacted why some communities don’t participate in medical research,” said Dr. Karriem Watson with the National Institutes of Health.

One of those events is the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study. In 1932, around 400 Black men living with syphilis were unaware they were being used as test subjects.

Lillie Tyson Head’s father was one of the test subjects. She said doctor’s lied to him, saying he had “bad blood” and needed to be treated.

“That was the part that affected the way people thought about how when you’re recruiting people to do vaccines particularly,” Head said.

It is a story of exploitation, one that Veronica Robinson relates to. Her great grandmother, Henrietta Lacks, died in the 1950s. Her cells were later used for medical research without her family’s permission.

“It’s a story that has saddened us but has also empowered us to be sure that we no longer are these unwilling participants, and that we are the trusted voices in the community,” Robinson said.

Officials say the conference is about building further trust and transparency in medical world.

Medical discussions are going to continue in Tuskegee. On Friday, they are hosting three sessions specifically focusing on the past, present and future of medical research. Discussion panels will be held from 10 a.m. until 2:15 p.m. at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church.

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