Benjamin Rabinowitz Symposium in Medical Ethics on Race, Health & Justice

The Benjamin Rabinowitz Symposium in Medical Ethics on Race, Health & Justice took place on March 31 at the University of Washington. The purpose of the symposium was to bring together an interdisciplinary group of students and faculty, as well as researchers and policy-makers from the surrounding community, who are interested in health equity, and who think critically about race and justice. Despite a professed commitment to equality, the US continues to manifest systematic inequalities in the determinants of health and in access to health care, which continue to severely disadvantage people of color. Identifying and ameliorating these disparities means considering the causes and manifestations of racial disparities in medicine and in health care, in public health, and in the social determinants of population health. It also means thinking beyond traditional notions of health care and public health to, for example, reforming policing and the criminal justice system. Communication and collaboration across disciplines and across specializations thus becomes essential.

The symposium was opened by a welcome address from Ed Taylor (Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs, UW). The Welcome Address was followed by three thematic panels and the keynote speech. The talks in the panels shifted from considering racial disparities in health care and in public health, to considering the wider social, economic and political systems and norms that influence health and racial inequalit. The symposium incuded the following:

Panel 1: Racial inequities and the clinic: Implicit bias, distrust and provision of care:

  • “Managing Implicit Bias: Data Collection and Other Strategies,” Janice Sabin, Biomedical Informatics and Medical Education
  • “Racial Disparities at the End of Life,” Crystal Brown, Medicine
  • “Recognizing Legacies of Distrust,” Tim Brown and Sara Goering, Philosophy

Panel 2: Racial inequities in women’s health:

  • “Evaluating Mechanisms of Racial Disparities in Breast Cancer Survival,” Wendy Barrington, Nursing
  • “The Black-White Mortality Gap in Endometrial Cancer,” Kemi Doll, Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • “Birth Outcomes Among African American Women Over the Life Course,” Amelia Gavin, Social Work

Panel 3: Freedom to be healthy? Health, health care and injustice

  • “The Afterlife of Slavery: Human Reproduction in Biocapitalism,” Alys Weinbaum, English
  • “Dying Inside: Care, Control, and Freedom for Prisoners at the End of Life,” Johanna Crane, IAS Bothell
  • “Death by a Thousand Cuts: The Health Implications of Black Respectability Politics,” Hedwig (Hedy) Lee, Sociology

The last event of the day was the keynote address by Myisha Cherry (Philosophy, University of Illinois, Chicago, and Harvard University) entitled “Solidarity Care: How to Take Care of Each Other in Times of Struggle”.

The symposium was organized by Carina Fourie (Program on Values in Society, Philosophy), Anjum Hajat (Epidemiology, School of Public Health) and Hedwig Lee (Sociology), in conjunction with THINK (The Health and Inequality Network), and with research/administrative assistance from Alex Lenferna (Program on Values in Society, Philosophy).

Many thanks go to the generous sponsors: The Benjamin Rabinowitz Endowment in Medical Ethics; the UW Department of Philosophy; the UW Program on Values in Society; the UW School of Public Health; and the Department of Sociology.