The Medicalization of Race
Moderated by Tavis Smiley Saturday, November 21, 2009
The Human Genome Project shows that 99.9 percent of the human genome is the same in everyone regardless of race. Based on this, many scientists argue that 'race' has no biological meaning and is used to perpetuate harmful social inequities. Others contend that racial groups can genetically differ from one another and that the differences can have medical importance.
How valid is the concept of race from the biological standpoint? Should race matter or should medicine be colorblind? How much should doctors and researchers place on the role of race in health issues?
Scientists presented the scientific basis of race and human variation. In this light, panelists offered different viewpoints on the science and policy of racial categorization in medical research and disease treatment.
Podcast availible at
Featured panelists included:
(click name for bio)
—moderator Tavis Smiley
Tavis Smiley on PBS and The Tavis Smiley Show from PRI
Pragna Patel, Ph.D.
Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Institute for Genetic Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California
Yolanda T. Moses, Ph.D.
Professor of Anthropology; Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Excellence and Equity; and Vice Provost for Conflict Resolution at the University of California, Riverside
Esteban González Burchard, M.D., M.P.H.
Associate Professor, Departments of Biopharmaceutical Sciences and Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
Michael J. Montoya, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine
Resources for Further Reading
Scholarly Journal Articles
, by Sally Satel. Medicine’s Race Problem Policy Review No. 110, December 2001 - January 2002.
, by Audrey Smedley and Brian D. Smedley. Race as Biology is Fiction, Racism as a Social Science Problem is Real: Anthological and Historical Perspectives on Social Construction of Race Journal of American Psychologist, Vol. 60, No. 1, 16-25. January 2005.
, by Charmaine D M Royal & Georgia M Dunston. Changing the paradigm from 'race' to human genome variation Nature Genetics, 36, S5 - S7 (2004).
. Editorial. Genes, drugs and race Nature Genetics, Vol. 29, No. 3, 239-240. November 2001.
, by S.O.Y Keita et al. Conceptualizing human variation Nature Genetics 36, S17 - S20 (2004).
, by Ritchie Witzig. The Medicalization of Race: Scientific Legitimization of a Flawed Social Construct Annals of Internal Medicine, Vol. 125, No. 8, 675-679. October, 15 1996.
, by Neil Risch et al. Categorization of humans in biomedical research: genes, race and disease Genome Biology, Vol. 3, No. 7. July 1, 2001.
, by Sandra Soo-Jin Lee et al. The ethics of characterizing difference: guiding principles on using racial categories in human genetics Genome Biology Vol. 9, No. 7. July 15. 2008.
, by Stephen L. Isaacs and Steven A. Schroeder. Class – The Ignored Determinant of the Nation’s Health The New England Journal of Medicine. September 9, 2004.
, by Alan H. Goodman. Why Genes Don’t Count (for Racial Differences in Health) American Journal of Public Health. Vol. 90, Bo, 11, 1699-1701. November 2000.
, by Braun L, Fausto-Sterling A, Fullwiley D, Hammonds EM, Nelson A, et al. PLoS Med 4(9): e271. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040271. September 25, 2007. Racial Categories in Medical Practice: How Useful Are They?
, by Esteban González Burchard, M.D., Elad Ziv, M.D., Natasha Coyle, Ph.D., Scarlett Lin Gomez, Ph.D.,
Hua Tang, Ph.D., Andrew J. Karter, Ph.D., Joanna L. Mountain, Ph.D., Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D.,
Dean Sheppard, M.D., and Neil Risch, Ph.D. The Importance of Race and Ethnic Background
in Biomedical Research and Clinical Practice New England Journal of Medicine. 348;12. march 20, 2003.