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University of Iowa News Release


Feb. 2, 2009

Virginia professor to discuss racism, medical research in UI law lecture

Alex Johnson Jr., professor of law at the University of Virginia, will discuss the use of race and ethnicity in medical classification when he speaks at the University of Iowa College of Law at 12:40 p.m. Friday, Feb. 13 in Room 225 of the Boyd Law Building. Admission is free and open to the public.

Johnson is one of a series of speakers on critical race theory whose lectures will lead up to a conference at the Boyd Law Building April 2-5 that will examine the first 20 years of critical race theory.

In his lecture, Johnson says the use of race in medical classification and research only furthers racism by creating an artificial separation between races. He points to biomedical research that conclusively demonstrates African-Americans have higher rates of hypertension, obesity, HIV infection and other health problems.

But Johnson also notes that most medical researchers agree that race is irrelevant when it comes to biology and is merely constructed by society. If that's the case, he says, a person's race should make no difference to a person's healthcare outcomes. To collect medical information with a racial distinction, he said, could potentially rebuild the "one drop of blood" rule that defined a person's race at one time in the South.

Moreover, he says that making such distinctions leads to inaccurate findings because what researchers are really studying is differences between ethnic groups, not races. As a result, he believes that ethnicity and not race should be used as a vehicle to capture the benefits derived from the prior use of race in biomedical research, without any detriment.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010 (office), 319-541-8434 (cell),