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Maryland: Dr. Thomas Publishes Editorial on the Burdens of Race and History on Black People’s Health 400 years After Jamestown

University of Maryland School of Public Health professor, Dr. Stephen Thomas, published an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health highlighting the pervasive and lasting influence of racism in the fields of medicine and public health. Ms. Erica Casper co-authored the editorial. 

The first enslaved Africans were brought to the U.S. 400 years ago (the October issue of AJPH focuses on this). Based on racist rhetoric that Black people are “medically different from whites and so in need of special treatment,” Black bodies were frequently used by White doctors for invasive dissection, surgery and bedside demonstrations.

It is then, Dr. Thomas contends, that Black people began to distrust and fear medicine. This fear, compounded with unequal care due to the dehumanization of Black people, led to health disparities which persist today. 

Evidence shows racial and ethnic minorities have lower life expectancies and suffer more from numerous health conditions than White individuals in the U.S. Yet a 2010 nationally representative survey of physicians revealed the majority do not view a patient’s race or ethnicity as a factor in obtaining care.

Studies report that overall progress in decreasing health disparities is slow. With this paper, Dr. Thomas hopes to “bring to the foreground a history that, because of the magnitude of its shame, has been too often ignored in discourse about the pervasive influence of racism in the fields of medicine and public health.”

Read more about Dr. Thomas and his editorial.

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