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South Carolina Lecture Features Social Epidemiologist Sherman A. James

Dr. Sherman A. James will present the keynote presentation, The Black Image in the White Mind: Implications for Achieving Racial Equity in America, at the Arnold School of Public Health’s Annual Winona B. Vernberg Distinguished Lecture Series from 3:30-4:45 p.m. on Wednesday, November 18. The seminar will take place in the Russell House Theater located on the University of South Carolina campus at 1400 Greene Street, Columbia SC 29208 with a light reception to follow.

Associate Professor Dr. Katrina Walsemann (Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior) and Assistant Professor Dr. Andrea Henderson (Department of Sociology) will host Dr. James at the University of South Carolina’s main campus for one week through the Provost’s Visiting Scholars Grant Program. Dr. James is a professor of epidemiology in the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University with a secondary appointment in African American studies.

Internationally known for his work as a social epidemiologist, Dr. James is credited for laying the foundation that led to the development of the “John Henryism Hypothesis.” This hypothesis suggests that members of poor and working-class populations, especially African Americans, who exert “high-effort” coping strategies in response to challenging social and economic conditions, are more likely to have early onset hypertension and heart disease.

“Dr. James is an amazing speaker and a brilliant scholar who profoundly influenced me during my doctoral program at the University of Michigan,” Dr. Walsemann says. “He shaped the way I think about race, culture and health inequities.” While at Michigan, Dr. James founded the Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture and Health—the first center of its kind to examine how culture, racism, ethnicity and socioeconomic status interact to influence health inequities.

Born in Hartsville, S.C., Dr. James has deepened his ties to the South during his 41-year career, including his current appointment at Emory. He also holds the title of Susan B. King Professor Emeritus of Public Policy at Duke University and conducted his seminal research through his Pitt County Study in North Carolina with funding through the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. With a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Dr. James is currently working on a book-length manuscript on the social and psychological mechanisms through which civil rights era legislation briefly narrowed black/white racial health disparities in the U.S.

The Vernberg Lecture, which is free and open to the public, is named for the late Winona Vernberg, a professor and scientist who conducted research to improve the environment. Vernberg also served as the second dean of the Arnold School, helping the school flourish and expand during her 18 years of leadership.

Since its inception in 2001, the Vernberg Lecture has become one of the Arnold School’s signature programs, bringing internationally recognized speakers to campus to discuss public health topics, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, strokes and aphasia, tobacco policy and air pollution.