Home / Health / Bill Jenkins, who helped put an end to the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study, died at the age of 73.

Bill Jenkins, who helped put an end to the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study, died at the age of 73.



Jenkins, an epidemiologist, played an important role in exposing this experience to the general public. He shocked his outrage at the racism behind the Tuskegee study and has always striven to reduce racial disparities and discrimination in health care.

He died on February 17 in Charleston, South Carolina, at the age of 73. His death was confirmed by the Morehouse School of Medicine, where he worked for many years.

Jenkins noted that the infamous study was actually the result of an effort begun with good intentions, to try to solve the problem of syphilis in the early twentieth century in America.

"Things that start with a good goal could become a very bad thing," Jenkins said in a speech to the American Public Health Association in 2010.
In response to the surge in syphilis rates of the previous decade, the US Public Health Service and the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama initiated a study in 1932 to record the natural progression of the disease.

The study offered free medical examinations, meals and burial insurance to recruit 600 black men, 201 of whom did not have the disease.

Jenkins recalled that initially, the study was supposed to track untreated men only for one year. But in 1936, it was decided to follow them until death. Men were not informed of what was being investigated and those who were carriers of the disease were not treated for the treatment of syphilis – even when penicillin had become an effective treatment in 1947. Many men ended up infecting their syphilis wife, to their children.

Jenkins, who began his career in 1967 as one of the first African-Americans to join the corps at the command of the Public Health Service, learned he had been informed of the study. in 1968 and had worked with his fellow epidemiologist, Peter Bauxum, to attract arrest.

"These efforts have been postponed until Peter ends up with the Associated Press reporter who was able to write this first article (about the study)," he said. declared.

The study only came to an end in 1972, after congressional hearings and the appointment of an advisory group to review it. She determined that the knowledge gained was "rare" in relation to the risk to the subjects.

A class action suit followed quickly, resulting in settlement and compensation of $ 10 million for living participants, their spouses and children, such as medical benefits and funeral services.

President Bill Clinton officially apologized for this study in 1997, regretting that "the federal government orchestrated such a clearly racist study."

The last participant in the study died in 2004, and the last widow receiving benefits died in 2009, according to the CDC. In 2015, 12 children of the study participants were receiving medical and health benefits.

He was a vocal critic of racism in health care

Jenkins then helped to take care of the many men who took part in the study by assuming the role of participant health benefits program manager, who offered them medical services.

"At first, I took responsibility because I thought I had not put an end to the study as soon as I heard about it," Jenkins said at the time. 39, a speech delivered at the Minority Affairs Workshop of the American College of Epidemiology in 2015. "a gift for me because I spoke to these black men, these old black men, who participated in this study because they thought they were doing a good thing. "
A few years later, while he was a professor at the University of North Carolina, he founded the Conference on Minority Health. Since 1980, he has held various positions at the US National Center for HIV, STD and Tuberculosis Prevention at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Jenkins launched the Master of Public Health program at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1995, the school said in a statement. The program was aimed at increasing the number of minorities in public health leadership positions. He has also been a Professor of Public Health Sciences and Associate Director of the Center for Disparity Research at Morehouse College.

He remained a strong advocate for reducing racial disparities in health. He has often criticized the medical community for what he saw as his reluctance to take an interest in the American racist heritage and its role in the chronic health problems that affect minorities.

"This is the only health problem for which we want to study racism, a racial symptom rather than the ideological factor," he said in his speech. "It's unbelievable for me as an epidemiologist.To resolve disparities in health, we also need to study racism."

A Quaker service for Jenkins is scheduled for March 23 in Decatur, Georgia. A memorial service will be held on April 6 at Morehouse College.


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