A laptop with the RDEISE logo (a circle of hands all holding each other by the wrist) on its screen. A surgical mask is hanging from a corner of the laptop by one of its ear loops, and there is a pair of surgical scissors resting on the laptop’s base. To one side of the laptop is a stack of books. A hexagon contains a photograph of Dr. Bita Amani, a Black woman with long, curly hair tied in a high ponytail on the top of her head; she’s wearing gold hoop earrings with a triangular pattern on them and a black collared blazer. She’s staring directly into the camera with a slight smile.

RDEISE Advisor Dr. Bita Amani Shares Her Favorite Learning Resources

The Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Science Education (RDEISE) project is led and overseen by our Faculty Steering Committee, an interdisciplinary team of top experts. 

Dr. Bita Amani, a social epidemiologist, public health practitioner, and Associate Professor at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, advises primarily on the learning cluster “Racism as a Public Health Crisis.”

Earlier this year, Dr. Amani spoke to us about her role in RDEISE, the impact of systemic racism on community health, and her role as a social epidemiologist. Today, Dr. Amani shares two of her favorite RDEISE learning resources and what she likes about them. 

Why is the History of Science Important?

In this video, Dr. Udodiri Okwandu, (a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow at Rutgers University and RDEISE project consultant), discusses the benefits of learning about the history of science, what inspired her to study the histories of science and medicine, and how these histories can help us understand the inequalities that still exist in these disciplines today.

Why is the History of Science Important? is my favorite learning resource for several reasons,” says Dr. Amani. “As researchers and practitioners who base our work on evidence, we have to be committed to knowing how the evidence we generate has come about. The context in which we develop knowledge plays a key role in both the validity and utility of the knowledge we create. 

The research questions we ask have everything to do with our world view, and how we see the world has everything to do with our social position and the world we are trying to create. The false notion that there are many human races was not born in a vacuum. It is deeply connected to a political project intent on ranking (and valuing) humans, and the determination of how humans were to be treated as a result.”

To learn more about Dr. Okwandu’s research, read “How the History of STEM Rhymes: A Conversation with Udodiri Okwandu.”

A quotation from Dr. Udodiri Okwandu reads: “I think of history as its own form of storytelling.” An illustration of a stethoscope (with a ball and chain in place of the tubing and chest piece) flows along the curves of the quotation text.

The Legacy of Slavery in Modern Gynecology

The 19th century was an important period for the development of gynecology as a medical discipline. Physicians like James Marion Sims made important breakthroughs that advanced our understanding of women’s reproductive health. However, these breakthroughs were only possible through Sims’s experimentation on enslaved Black women. The Legacy of Slavery in Modern Gynecology explains the relationship between modern gynecology and slavery in the US, and why it’s important to acknowledge the often cruel and exploitative history of this discipline.

“This, my second favorite learning resource, draws our attention to how social oppressions are intersectional and how racism is deeply connected to patriarchy,” explains Dr. Amani. “The biomedicalization of birth, which is to the detriment of both birthing people and their families, is based on the false notion that pregnancy and delivery is an illness. 

Alongside the RDEISE logo (a circle of hands all holding each other by the wrist), and against a blue background, text reads: “From the RDEISE glossary: Intersectionality: The theory of the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to an individual or group. For example, being Black, American, and a heterosexual woman. It describes overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination, disadvantage, or even privilege. This means that these multiple identities can result in someone experiencing a specific set of challenges that is unique to them because of their specific intersections.”

Additionally, the quest to develop knowledge within the field of gynecology was based on the racist ideas that Black women could be enslaved and owned and therefore their bodies could be tortured for science. The legacy of birth disparities we see today is based on ideas of racial difference (and therefore inferiority) and the continued attempt to control birthing people’s bodies.”

To explore these assets in depth, check out the learning pathway Racism and the History of Science. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up-to-date with the RDEISE project.

Written by
LabXchange RDEISE team

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