Emory Report

February 21, 2000

 Volume 52, No. 22

Thomas to speak at screening

By Lillian Kim

Minority health expert Stephen Thomas, associate professor of community health, will speak before a special public screening of the award-winning HBO movie Miss Evers' Boys, to be held Feb. 22 in the Dobbs Center.

The film tells the story of the notorious Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which federal researchers deliberately withheld effective treatment from African American men with syphilis.

The study, aimed at determining the long-term effects of the disease, lasted from 1932 until 1972. It was the longest non-therapeutic experiment on humans in the history of medicine and public health.

Actress Alfre Woodard plays the real nurse, Eunice Evers, the key to keeping the men together throughout the 40 years of the study. Controversy remains to this day around the extent to which she was aware that her patients were not being treated and not informed that they were infected with syphilis. The 1997 HBO movie is a fictional account that won numerous awards, including Emmys for Woodard and for best made-for-TV movie.

The legacy of the Tuskegee study, according to Thomas, is a lasting distrust among African Americans toward the biomedical research establishment and public health services in general.

In 1999, Thomas received a three-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate the Tuskegee study's impact on blacks' willingness to participate in clinical research and implications for research ethics. The under-representation of African Amer-icans in medical studies has been well documented. However, "efforts to eliminate health disparities in the African American community require that more black people participate in medical and public health research," Thomas said.

Thomas is director of the Institute for Minority Health Research in the School of Public Health. He specializes in AIDS issues, especially HIV prevention, and in 1998 was a member of the Institute of Medicine's committee on preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission in the United States. In 1997, he represented Emory at President Bill Clinton's apology to the survivors of the Tuskegee study.

The Miss Evers' Boys screening is the first event in a film series on public health sponsored by the School of Public Health. The event is free and open to the public and will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Harland Cinema. For more information call 404-727-3739.

To find out more about the Institute for Minority Health Research, visit its website at www.sph.emory.edu/bshe/imhr/.

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