George W. Gay lecture honors HMS Center for Bioethics and Tuskegee University collaboration

Rueben C. Warren (left) and Robert D. Truog.

The 100th Annual George W. Gay Lecture in Medical Ethics with Rueben C. Warren (left) and Robert D. Truog. © 2022 Photo by Cindy M. Loo

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The 100th annual George W. Gay Lecture in Medical Ethics, held on Nov. 8, honored and celebrated a years-long collaboration between the Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics and the National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care at Tuskegee University. The lecturer was Rueben C. Warren, who directs that center at Tuskegee. The two bioethics centers have also collaboratively held two lecture series for Black History Month, on racism, health care, and bioethics.

This year’s George W. Gay Lecture in Medical Ethics was hosted at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association. In the lecture, “Looking Back to Move Forward: Promoting Population Health,” HMS Center for Bioethics Director Robert D. Truog interviewed Warren in a fireside chat. Warren emphasized the importance of listening, as a practice essential to the work of bioethics.

Describing the aftermath of the United States Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee, Warren spoke about working with, and listening to the stories of, relatives of the study’s subjects. “IRBs,” he said, “started as a result of that work.” Bioethicists must ask themselves and one another, “whose ethics determine what ought to be going on, and whose voices ought we to be listening to?” he added.

To learn more, and view a recording of the lecture, visit the HMS Center for Bioethics’ website.