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Attorney Fred Gray 1/20/10

Diagnosing Our Future

“Of all of the forms of inequality, injustice in health
is the most shocking and inhumane.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Event Videos
Fred Gray - Lecture       Fred Gray - Forum Part 1       Fred Gray - Forum Part 2

Fred Gray Event

About Fred Gray
Attorney Fred Gray is an American hero – one of the most significant figures in the modern civil rights movement and an important contributor to advancements in healthcare regarding patient rights and bioethics.
His Civil Rights Legacy
In 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Gray represented Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat to a white man on a city bus – the action that initiated the Montgomery Bus Boycott and led to the integration of public transportation in the city. He served as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s first civil rights lawyer and fought to gain full voting rights for African Americans and to desegregate Alabama's public schools and housing projects.  In 2002, he was elected president of the Alabama Bar Association, the first time in the law association's history that an African American had held its top post.
Contributions to Health Care
Healthcare professionals are well aware of Fred Gray’s efforts to expose decades of racial discrimination in patient care in a government-sponsored project known as the Tuskegee Experiment.  From 1932 to 1942, government physicians studied untreated syphilis in 399 black men from Macon County, Alabama.  The men were not told they had syphilis, not given counseling on avoiding spread of the disease, and not given treatment throughout the course of the study.  By the time the study was finally terminated in 1972, 128 people had died of syphilis and related complications.

The participants in the study were denied treatment and actively restrained from obtaining medicine to combat the disease, a practice that characterized the medical profession at the time. It was Fred Gray who, as attorney for these men in the 1970s, raised the moral and ethical concerns that had previously been ignored.  Gray eventually persuaded President Bill Clinton in 1997 to make an official apology to the participants of the study and pledge to strengthen bioethics programs across the country.  It was a wake-up call that triggered a wave of new legislation to protect patients and thrust bioethics into the national spotlight.

The Tuskegee Study has come to represent the potential for exploitation of any population that may be vulnerable because of race, ethnicity, gender, disability, age or social class. Healthcare professionals who care for an increasingly diverse nation have come to understand the study’s lasting implications for patients by developing new attitudes toward patient safety and empowerment, and informed consent.

Gray is the author of two books, Bus Ride to Justice and The Tuskegee Syphilis Study: The Real Story and Beyond.  He also co-authored, The Children Coming On:  A Retrospective of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
About Henry Wendell Foster, Jr., MD
Dr. Henry FosterDr. Henry W. Foster, Jr., is Professor Emeritus and former Dean of the School of Medicine, Meharry College and Clinical Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Vanderbilt University.  In 1995 he was nominated by President Bill Clinton to become U. S. Surgeon General.  Although the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee sent forward a favorable recommendation for his confirmation, his opponents denied him an up-or-down Senate floor vote, where his confirmation was assured. Thereafter, from 1996 to 2001, Dr. Foster served as President Clinton's Senior Advisor on Teen Pregnancy Reduction and Youth Issues.

Dr. Foster received his undergraduate education at Morehouse College and his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Arkansas in 1958 where he was inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha National Honor Medical Society.  He was the only African American in his class of 96 students. He conducted an internship at Detroit Receiving Hospital, 1958-59 and spent two years as a medical officer in the U.S. Air Force, 1959-61. Upon his discharge he was a resident physician in general surgery in Malden, Massachusetts, 1961-62 and completed a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Meharry Medical College, 1962-65.

Upon finishing his postgraduate training, Dr. Foster assumed the position of Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the John A. Andrew Memorial Hospital of Tuskegee University (formerly Tuskegee Institute).  While at Tuskegee, he helped pioneer what has become a national model for regionalized perinatal health care systems throughout the country.  It was primarily this activity that led to his induction into the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1972 as one of its youngest inductees ever.  While serving as Professor and Chairman of Meharry's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr. Foster spent five years as Senior Program Consultant for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and directed its Program to Consolidate Health Services for High-Risk Young People, 1981-86.  From this program he conceptualized and developed the “I Have A Future Program,” to reduce teen pregnancy, which was recognized by President George Bush in 1991, as one of the nation's “Thousand Points of Light.”

During his career, Dr. Foster has produced more than 250 publications and abstracts as well as contributed chapters to textbooks, has written a book, Make A Difference, and has developed audiovisual educational materials.  He has conducted 80 formal university lectureships and his professional expertise has been sought across the globe.  He has participated in conferences, seminars and hearings in Spain, Mexico, Peru, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Mainland China, Canada, Singapore, Austria, Israel, Turkey, Vietnam, the United Kingdom, Australia, Russia, Nigeria, India, Bangladesh and Cuba.

Dr. Foster has served on numerous boards, committees and councils, all of which work to improve reproductive health and medical education.  Such examples are: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG); an examiner for the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology; a member of the editorial board of Academic Medicine (formerly The Journal of Medical Education), of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC); and serves on the Board of Trustees for The Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science and for the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.  Dr. Foster is past president of the Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics (APGO) that addresses undergraduate educational issues in obstetrics and gynecology in all 127 American and 16 Canadian medical schools.  He is Past board chairman of Americans for UNFPA (formally, the U.S. Committee for the United Nations Population Fund); immediate past chairman, Board of Directors, Pathfinder International; and he served two terms as chairman of the Board of Regents for the National Library of Medicine.  In May 1993, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences conferred upon him the first of his now six honorary doctorate degrees.
About John Seigenthaler
John SeigenthalerJohn Seigenthaler founded the First Amendment Center in 1991 with the mission of creating national discussion, dialogue and debate about First Amendment rights and values.  A former president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Seigenthaler served for 43 years as an award-winning journalist for The Tennessean, Nashville's morning newspaper. At his retirement he was editor, publisher and CEO. He retains the title chairman emeritus. In 1982, Seigenthaler became founding editorial director of USA TODAY and served in that position for a decade, retiring from both the Nashville and national newspapers in 1991.

Seigenthaler left journalism briefly in the early 1960s to serve in the U.S. Justice Department as administrative assistant to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. His work in the field of civil rights led to his service as chief negotiator with the governor of Alabama during the Freedom Rides. During that crisis, while attempting to aid Freedom Riders in Montgomery, Ala., he was attacked by a mob of Klansmen and hospitalized.

Seigenthaler hosts a weekly book-review program, "A Word On Words." He is a senior advisory trustee of the Freedom Forum. He chairs the Robert F. Kennedy Book Awards for the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights and is chairman emeritus of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Awards.  Seigenthaler served on the 18-member National Commission on Federal Election Reform organized in 2001 by former Presidents Carter and Ford. He is a member of the Constitution Project on Liberty and Security, created after the Sept. 11 tragedies in New York and Washington.

In 2002, the trustees of Vanderbilt University created the John Seigenthaler Center, naming the building at 18th Avenue South and Edgehill Avenue that houses the offices of the Freedom Forum, the First Amendment Center and the Diversity Institute. The John Seigenthaler Center encompasses 57,000 square feet and includes a three-story expansion that was funded by the Freedom Forum and donated to Vanderbilt.

A chair in First Amendment Studies was endowed for $1.5 million in Seigenthaler's name at Middle Tennessee State University. Scholarship projects are endowed at both Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee State in Seigenthaler’s name.

Seigenthaler is the author of a biography, James K. Polk, published by Times Books and released in January 2004.

Commentary About the Event from Panelist Dwight Lewis

January 21, 2010Dwight Lewis
Belmont embraces diverse conversation
Commentary by Dwight Lewis

Excerpts. . . .

It was one of those once-in-a- lifetime experiences that you wish you could just bottle up and take and share with other people. I don't think I'm alone in feeling this way. I think many of the hundreds of other people who attended an event at Belmont University titled "A Conversation with Fred Gray and Friends'' will tell you they feel the same way.  And let me say upfront, while I had been invited to participate in a panel discussion both before and after a featured speech by Fred Gray, the event was made special by his conversation with noted journalist John Seigenthaler and noted obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Henry Foster about such things as life, race and how the South and this nation as a whole got to be where they are today.

"We meet here just a couple of days after the nation celebrated the 81st birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., as a national holiday,'' Gray told those gathered yesterday at Belmont. "This has not always been the case.''  No, it hasn't, but it shows not only how far Belmont has come in widening its mission as a university but also how far we've come as a nation since Fred Gray defended Rosa Parks for refusing to give up her seat on that Montgomery city bus.

See the full commentary online at Tennessean.com

Gordon E. Inman College of Health Sciences & Nursing
School of Pharmacy School of Nursing
School of Physical Therapy School of Occupational Therapy
Social Work Department