How Physicians Hundreds Of Years Ago Medicalized Race — And How That Legacy Lives On Today

Feb 5, 2020

Pain treatment is different for white and black patients in the United States. One recent study shows black patients were 40% less likely to get medication to ease acute pain than white patients in the emergency room. Why does this happen?

A 2016 study of University of Virginia medical students suggests that the reason is — at least in part — racial bias. Researchers discovered a high number of white medical students and residents with inaccurate ideas about the biological differences between black and white people. These false beliefs are rooted in centuries-old ideas from physicians about biological differences in race.

Host Frank Stasio learns about where these ideas took root from Rana Hogarth, the author of “Medicalizing Blackness: Making Racial Difference in the Atlantic World, 1780-1840.” She is also an assistant professor in the department of history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Hogarth will be at the Wilson Special Collections Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Thursday, Feb. 13 at 5 p.m. to talk about her work and to open a new exhibition at the Wilson Library called “Race Deconstructed: Science and the Making of Difference.” Stasio also  talks to Dawne Howard Lucas about that exhibition and what materials will be on display. Lucas is the technical services archivist for UNC-Chapel Hill. The exhibition will be up from Thursday, Feb. 13 to Sunday, April 19.