June 2, 2017

In an in-depth article on the ongoing exclusion of minorities from medical studies, health services administration Professor and Maryland Center for Health Equity (M-CHE) Director Stephen B. Thomas notes that “even as recently as 1972, when the infamous Tuskegee study (in which 400 black men were infected with syphilis and untreated for decades) made front-page news, people defended it.” 

Dr. Thomas addresses the continuing rift between scientists and black communities. "The history of research abuse is alive and well in many of these communities—it lives through word of mouth. And a grandmother's word of mouth is more powerful than [that] of a researcher," Thomas says. "The pattern of investigators swooping in, collecting data, and swooping out—what we call parachute or drive-by research—they know it well and are sick and tired of it. They have been poked and prodded and are still sick."

The article highlights the M-CHE Health Advocates In-Reach and Research (HAIR) program, which pairs up public health experts with barbers in historically black neighborhoods to educate clients about colorectal cancer screening. HAIR is held up as an example of “soft” interventions that are proving to be effective strategies for building trust in African-American communities.

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Medical Studies Still Exclude People of Color

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Stephen B. Thomas