Wednesday, July 4, 2018

University of Pittsburgh decides it's not such a great idea to honor the architects of the Tuskegee syphilis study.

After graduate students at Pitt petitioned for a name change, the Board of Regents has voted to remove the name of Thomas Parran from a prominent building that houses the Graduate School of Public Health.

Inside Higher Ed explains:

That building is named for Thomas Parran Jr., a name that isn't as well-known as Robert E. Lee or John C. Calhoun. But to those in medicine and public health, including those who work in the building that has been named for him, Parran is associated with two of the science experiments that most stained the reputation of American medicine -- and that continue to have an impact today.

Parran was the first dean of Pitt's Graduate School of Public Health, serving from 1948 to 1958. He came to Pitt after he was U.S. surgeon general from 1936 to 1948. It was in that role that he oversaw two research projects that are today widely seen as violating the norms of informed consent. He oversaw the Tuskegee study that involved withholding vital information and treatment from black men with syphilis and was involved in similar research in Guatemala. These projects were deemed acceptable by those of Parran's generation of science leaders because the people being experimented on without their knowledge were not white.

This latest decision comes a decade after Pitt quietly cancelled a name lectureship in honor of John Cutler, who was also deeply implicated in the Tuskegee and Guatemala syphilis studies.

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