Medical Ethics Summer School

It has been a couple months since the end of the spring quarter, and the with it the end of many of the Medical Center’s weekly lecture series. But a recent batch of videos posted to the website of the MacLean Center for Medical Ethics brought a whiff of the school year to the dog days of summer. The videos feature a selection of the lectures from the third and final segment of the 2010-2011 theme, “Health Disparities: Local, National, Global,” [pdf] and run the gamut of expert perspectives from libertarian law and the insurance industry to black history and medical education. If you are going through lecture withdrawal or want to get excited for next year’s MacLean Center series (“Medical Professionalism and the Future of American Medicine” [pdf]) beginning in late September, enjoy these videos.

The Case for Health Disparities – Richard Epstein, University of Chicago

Richard Epstein‘s annual contribution to the seminar series is always a combustible reaction, where the classically conservative law professor’s market economics conflict with the more liberal lean of the regular audience. This year’s topic was especially flammable – after a couple dozen lectures on the struggle to reduce the health care gap in the United States and around the world, here was Epstein arguing for preserving those very same inequities. Beyond the deliberately provocative title, Epstein’s characteristically off-the-cuff speech recommended that health care reformers should choose a different target – instead of minimizing the health care differences between top and bottom, push policies that support growth and innovation for all patients, rich or poor, while encouraging charity instead of coercive giving.

Future Directions for Health Equity – Anne Beal, Aetna Foundation

The Aetna Corporation is in the business of providing health insurance to Americans. The Aetna Foundation is the charitable arm of that company, dispensing grants and funds to research ways of improving the health care system and reducing costs. Researcher and author Anne Beal is the current president of the Aetna Foundation, and focused her talk on reducing costs and inequalities via improving the quality of health care in America. “Giving people the right care at the right time and preventing disease is an amazing way for us to really rein back a lot of these health care costs,” Beal said. [Original Article]

“Without Health and Long Life All Else Fails”: African-Americans and the History of the Elimination of Racial Disparities in Health and Health Care – Vanessa Northington Gamble, George Washington University

Obviously, racial disparities in health care are not a new phenomenon. Efforts to improve the health of African-Americans also didn’t begin with the civil rights movement, though the strategies employed by the disparity-fighters of the segregation era were very different from today.

Vanessa Northington Gamble, a professor of medical humanities and history, walked the room through the history of black hospitals and health campaigns directed at African-American communities – some of which still exist today in modified formats. [Original Article]

The Changing Face of Medicine: Diversity at the Pritzker School of Medicine – William McDade, University of Chicago

With segregated hospitals a distant memory, a diverse medical workforce is needed to connect with patients of all racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. The bottleneck for establishing diversity among doctors is the medical school, where minority enrollment has long been a thin sliver of incoming classes around the country. The Pritzker School of Medicine was no different, said William McDade, who in addition to his duties as an associate professor of anesthesia & critical care is the Univeristy’s deputy provost for research and minority issues. Until the 1990’s, Pritzker classes could typically count the number of African-American students on one hand. But through recent changes in admissions criteria for medical students of all backgrounds and the development of pipeline programs for attracting younger minority students to careers in science and medicine, those numbers are seeing a significant rise, McDade reported in his lecture.

Developing a Framework for the Intersection among Physical and Mental Disorder Disparities – James Jackson, University of Michigan

Almost all of the health disparities between black and white Americans go in one direction – disease rates and medical outcomes for African-Americans are worse than those for people identified as Caucasian. But there’s an intriguing exception in mental health rates, where the disparities are flipped to higher incidence of depression and other psychiatric conditions in white populations. James Jackson, director of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, used this curious statistic as the jumping-off point for a broader theory about why health disparities are so persistent and difficult to erode, arguing that how different cultures cope with stress influences the particular flavor of their long-term health struggles. [Original Article]

[Each academic year, the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics organizes a series of lunchtime seminars by physicians, biologists, economists, social scientists and other experts covering the biggest questions in health care and ethics. This year’s theme is “Health Disparities: Local, National, Global,” and the series was put together with the Urban Health Initiative, the Global Health Initiative, and Finding Answers. ScienceLife will carry regular coverage of this unique series, and video of the lectures will be posted when available.]

About Rob Mitchum (525 Articles)
Rob Mitchum is communications manager at the Computation Institute, a joint initiative between The University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory.
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