Federal Government Awards $14 Million To Tuskegee Bioethics CenterWASHINGTON
The federal government has awarded a $14 million grant to Tuskegee University to complete its National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care.
The center is the nation’s first bioethics institute dedicated to addressing issues that involve African Americans and other underserved populations. It was created in 1999 with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in part to address the legacy of the syphilis study that took place from 1932 to 1972 in Macon County, Ala.
“Tuskegee University serves as an ideal place to house this center, both professionally and symbolically,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson in a statement announcing his agency’s awarding of the grant last month. “The center will stand as a testament to those who suffered so unjustly in the name of science.”
The grant will allow the school to renovate the former hospital in which the Tuskegee syphilis study was conducted as well as a residence hall to consolidate the center into one location and provide housing for visiting scholars and interns who participate in bioethics programs.
The center’s objectives are to increase awareness of historical and contemporary medical treatment of African Americans and assist in eliminating racial health disparities and improving access to quality health care and health services. The center also serves as a resource for primary and secondary research exploring the role of cultural diversity in the bioethics community.
“This funding enables us to form a critical mass of dedicated scholars and scientists fully committed to the principles and practices of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research, policy analysis and public discourse, all in the interest of improving public health and health policy,” says Dr. Benjamin Payton, president of Tuskegee University.
The center has already received federal grants and private funding totaling $16 million, including multi-million dollar donations from the Ford Motor Co., the United Negro College Fund and the Lilly Foundation. Since 1998, Tuskegee has received $10 million in federal funds earmarked to cover operating expenses of the center.
With the program funds, the school has developed a bioethics curriculum for all entering students and assisted in creating a new Ph.D. program in the biosciences aimed at developing a pool of African American and other minority students with training in the fields of biosciences and bioethics.
Tuskegee committed the earlier funding to outreach programs in the areas around campus where many families were affected by the syphilis experiment to identify and prevent major threats to African American health, like diabetes. The school has also developed partnership programs with other institutions, including a cancer prevention program with New York University and the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
The new center has helped initiate a dialogue across a number of departments at Tuskegee around health and biomedical issues.
“It has brought together diverse academic units into a conversation if not an alliance in ways that we just didn’t have before,” Payton says. “It’s created a framework within which science and liberal arts can talk and listen and begin to appreciate one another in ways that we don’t normally have.”
— By Ben Hammer
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