Susan Reverby, “Escaping Melodrama:  How Should We Think about the Immoral Research Studies in Tuskegee and Guatemala?”

March 3, 2016
4:00 pmto5:30 pm




Public Lecture: Allen Hall 221
1020 University St.
UO campus
Poster PDF

Susan M. Reverby—the Marion Butler McLean Professor in the History of Ideas and a professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, Wellesley College—will give a public lecture at the University of Oregon in Allen Hall 221 on March 3. Her lecture is titled,  “Escaping Melodrama: How Should We Think about the Immoral Research Studies in Tuskegee and Guatemala?”.  This talk is sponsored by the CSWS Narrative, Health, and Social Justice Research Interest Group (RIG).

As a historian of American health care, Dr. Reverby’s research has been on women’s health, women as health workers/professionals, and the ethics of public health and research. In recent years she completed a long commitment to writing about what is often called the infamous “Tuskegee” syphilis study, the four decades long (1932-72) U.S. Public Health Service research study in which African American men were deceived into believing they were being treated, not monitored, for their disease. She edited a book on this study called Tuskegee’s Truths: Rethinking the Tuskegee Syphilis Study (2000).

Her own book on the study, Examining Tuskegee: The Infamous Syphilis Study and Its Legacy, appeared in 2009, winning three major academic awards. She was also part of the Legacy Committee that led to President Clinton offering a federal apology for this study in 1997.

As part of the research on the syphilis study, Reverby found unpublished papers about a Public Health Service study (1946-48) in Guatemala that involved infecting men and women in a prison, army barracks and a mental hospital with sexually transmitted diseases. Her work was used as the basis for the U.S. government’s apology by the Secretaries of State and Health and Human Services to the people of Guatemala, a focus on the study by the President’s Bioethical Issues Commission, and the reassessment of the protections we give to subjects, especially in studies that take place outside the U.S. borders.

In addition to a public talk, Dr. Reverby will lead a smaller workshop for RIG members focused on three themes: (1) the ethics of conducting research in sites of medical inequality; (2) making our scholarly work more visible; and (3) the connections between research and social activism to rectify health inequalities. For more information contact RIG coordinators: Mary E. Wood, Department of English, contact: mewood (at) or Kristin Yarris, Department of International Studies, contact: keyarris(at)