U of A Professor to Lecture on Threat of ‘Bad Medicine’ in Modern Times


Feb. 08, 2018

Image courtesy Tricia Starks
– Early science embedded ideologies of race, patriarchy, and colonial dominance into the very skeletons of study, leading to medical abuse. Image from Vesalius, de humane corporis fabrica, 1543,

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The concept of “bad medicine” summons up visions of medieval bleedings, blisterings, cauterizations and other practices where doctors failed to follow the Hippocratic dictum to “first do no harm.” Tricia Starks, an associate professor of history, will explore how medical abuse has persisted and flourished in the modern era, even in the United States, during a free public lecture at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14, in Gearhart Hall Auditorium, room 26. All are invited to attend.

“In the past hundred years we’ve seen a triumph in public health – we’ve come a long way,” Starks said. “But there have also been times when medicine goes bad.”

For example, Starks points to the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment (1932-1972), which followed the progression of untreated syphilis in African-American sharecroppers in Alabama under the guise of receiving free health care from the U.S. government.

More recently, hospital patients in long-term care suffered questionable deaths in post-Katrina New Orleans, and connections have been drawn between high-profile philanthropy and high-profit OxyContin, which has ushered in an epidemic of opioid addiction and deaths by overdose.

“Indifference from medical authorities for the rights of people of color, for poor people, for women did not suddenly emerge with Tuskegee, the Holocaust, or in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,” Starks said. “It took centuries of racism, misogyny and paternalistic disregard in medical education, practice and ethics.”

Signature Seminars Explore Cutting-Edge Topics

Starks’ public lecture serves as a preview for her Honors College Signature Seminar, “Bad Medicine,” scheduled for fall 2018. Previous Signature Seminars, designated HNRC 4013H in the university’s Catalog of Studies, have addressed topics ranging from the evolutionary tales told by fossil teeth …

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