Andrew Logan ’18

Medina ’00, MD, MPH, Explores Structural Racism in Health Care

Eduardo Medina ’00, M.D. (photo credit: Emily Rumsey Photography )

Eduardo Medina ’00, MD, MPH, is one of the authors of “Structural Racism and Supporting Black Lives,” published in the New England Journal of Medicine. (Photo by Emily Rumsey Photography)

When the news broke of Philando Castile’s tragic death at the hands of a St. Paul police officer last summer, Eduardo Medina ’00, MD, MPH, like many Americans, felt called to action. As a native of New York City and a Minneapolis resident for the past 10 years, he was familiar with a number of high profile cases of police misconduct and says that he felt compelled to address the structural racism that was the underlying cause of this tragedy.

Working with colleagues Dr. Rachel Hardeman and Dr. Katy Kozhimannil, both professors in the Division of Health Policy and Management at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, they set out to address the link between premature deaths, both in the criminal justice system and in the healthcare system in America.

Their efforts culminated in “Structural Racism and Supporting Black Lives — The Role of Health Professionals” published last December in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. In it, the authors assert that structural racism not only plagues American policing practices, but has also corrupted the ways in which American doctors care for their patients.

Different from interpersonal racism, structural racism is, they write, “a confluence of institutions, culture, history, ideology, and codified practices that generate and perpetuate inequity among racial and ethnic groups,” so while few physicians express overt racism, they still work within a racist system. Medina cites evidence that, African American’s receive fewer referrals for cardiac catheterization and children of color often receive less adequate pain management in emergency rooms. This is, the authors believe, something that the field needs to more thoroughly acknowledge. Yet as they astutely note in their article, the term “racism” scarcely appears in medical literature.

Their research featured a shocking statistic about race and medicine in America. Citing a study published earlier in 2016, that found “50% of white medical students and residents hold false beliefs about biologic differences between black and white people,” such as: the blood of black people coagulates more quickly; the skin of black people is thicker than that of white people.

“Sadly, these misconceptions do not entirely surprise me,”Medina says, “considering America’s history of perpetuating the myth of differences based on racial classification, segregated care and medical experimentation on communities of color.”

To tackle these inequities, medical professionals “will have to recognize racism, not just race,” they write. Instead of simply attributing health disparities solely to biological differences, professionals ought to also examine other, broader, more structural factors that influence the health of their patients. A solution, the authors propose, is to integrate anti-racism programs along with traditional healthcare when dealing with illnesses such as diabetes, whose complications disproportionately effect black Americans.

Medina’s integration of social justice and medicine, he notes, actually echoes a history of political activism amongst Latin American physicians, like Che Guevara and Salvador Allende, something he studied as a Latin American Studies major, even while on the pre-med track at Wesleyan.

“Wesleyan offered a lot of opportunities that I was able to build on as I went forward with my career,” he says. Outside of class, he found a “rich intellectual, cultural and spiritual community” particularly among students of color. Medina even had the opportunity to fulfill his work-study at a local health care clinic.

Today, Medina still keeps up with several Wesleyan friends, including Lauren Gilchrist ’99, Senior Policy Advisor to the Governor of  Minnesota. Meanwhile, he and his spouse, Dr. Hardeman, intend to keep fighting for justice and equity for marginalized patients. “As medical professionals of color if we’re not doing this work,” he asks, “then who else is?”

Lawrence-Riddell ’98 Brings Hip-Hop To Classrooms As Mr. El-Are

Michael Lawrence-Riddell ’98, a middle school language arts teacher, composes hip-hop songs to teach literature and history. (photo: Lauren Lawrence-Riddell)

Michael Lawrence-Riddell ’98, a middle school language arts teacher, composes hip-hop songs to teach literature and history. (Photo by Lauren Lawrence-Riddell)

It turns out that Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 is not the only Wesleyan alumnus presenting history through the sounds of hip-hop. Just upstream from Wesleyan, in Amherst, Mass., Michael Lawrence-Riddell ’98 has worked to bring hip-hop music from the stage into the classroom with the help of several other Wesleyan alumni.

So far, this middle school language arts teacher has written and recorded more than a dozen original songs, each intended to engage students while offering context and analysis of literature and history. Some historical topics mentioned in his work include the Harlem Renaissance, Hurricane Katrina and the Stono Rebellion. His songs also tackle American literary classics like The Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird. One song “Descendants of Cain,” about John Steinbeck’s famous novella Of Mice and Men, focuses on the many allusions found throughout the work, as well as its central theme of solitude. For many of these 15 songs, Lawrence-Riddell also offers unique lesson plans intended for use by other teachers.

Lawrence-Riddell has received plenty of support for his project, called Mind Your Music, including the skills of Wesleyan friends Kimani Rogers ’97, Tarik Holder ’98 and Keith Witty ’99, as well as financial backing from a Kickstarter campaign.

Cover copyAs an African American Studies major at Wesleyan, Lawrence-Riddell always sought ways to communicate the complex history of race and racism in America. Music would become a conduit for this mission. In the unapologetically political and pro-Black stances of many of his favorite hip-hop groups he found a call to action and inspiration to create socially conscious art.

Attending Wesleyan during a ‘golden age’ of independent hip-hop, he remembers returning from class with his friends to their Nicholson and Hewitt dorm rooms on Tuesday afternoons to discuss and listen to the latest albums. Together, Rogers, Holder and Lawrence-Riddell also worked for the student hip-hop publication Off Tha Top. When Rogers and Holder formed the hip-hop group The Masterminds, Lawrence-Riddell served as their manager, touring the country with hip-hop legends like A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, MF Doom and others.

“The experiences and memories that we built were incredible…those guys were, and are to this day, my brothers,” he says.

For those who’d like a sample of the hip-hop art of Mister El-Are, Lawrence-Riddell notes that YouTube offers a video for the song “Firebrands (Stand Up!) about the Stono Rebellion, Nat Turner and his insurrection, Denmark Vesey’s plotted rebellion, and John Brown and the raid on Harper’s Ferry. Lawrence-Riddell, Holder, Rogers and Akrobatik provide bombastic lyrical delivery and hard hitting beats that align with the radically progressive message of the subject matter.

Theory Certificate Hosts Lecture Series on Contours of the Present Crisis

This semester, the Certificate in Social, Cultural and Critical Theory is hosting a lecture series titled “Contours of the Present Crisis.”

This series will respond the heightened social and political conflicts of the current moment. Talks will be held on March 7, March 30 and May 4.

“Our aim is to emphasize at every turn the relationship between what we call ‘theory’ and the rest of our lives,” says Matthew Garrett, associate professor of English, associate professor of American studies and the director of the Certificate in Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory. “Intellectual work certainly deserves a privileged place; at the same time, as somebody once said, the world won’t get better on its own, and our work in the Certificate needs to keep alive the relationship between rigorous critical thought and open, radical activity in the world.”

Suleiman Mourad, professor of religion at Smith College,

Shapiro Receives Grant from Belgian Government

Norman Shapiro, professor of french.

Norman Shapiro.

Norman Shapiro, professor of French, poet in residence and the Distinguished Professor of Literary Translation at Wesleyan, has received a grant from the Belgian government’s Ministère de la Culture for his forthcoming volume Fables of Town and Country, a translation of Fables des villes et des champs of Pierre Coran, an eminent Belgian poet and novelist.

The book will feature illustrations by Olga Pastuchiv, a children’s book author and illustrator, and will be published by Black Widow Press, which specializes in poetry translations. Black Widow Press also published Shapiro’s previous collection of Coran, Fables in a Modern Key, translated from the Belgian author’s Fables à l’air du temps. Early next year, Black Widow intends to publish Shapiro’s Rhymamusings, a translation of the 70 whimsical verse-vignettes of Coran’s Amuserimes.

Shapiro has received praise and numerous awards for his translations. In 1971, his translation of Feydeau’s Four Farces was a finalist for the National Book Award for Translation. His French Women Poets of Nine Centuries: The Distaff and the Pen earned him the 2009 National Translation Award from the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA). Shapiro also is a member of the Academy of American Poets and an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la République Francaise.

Thomas Co-Authors 5 Papers in Academic Journals

Ellen Thomas, professor of earth and environmental sciences and University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences, recently co-authored five papers in academic journals.

Her first paper, “Jianshuiite in Oceanic Manganese Nodules” co-authored with Jeffery Post and Peter Heaney, appeared within American Mineralogist. Deviating from her usual research, Thomas focused on mineralogy and, in particular, the crystal structure of a rare mineral found in sediments during an ancient counterpart of future global warming.

Thomas co-authored “Variability in Climate and Productivity during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum in the Western Tethys,” with Flavia Boscolo-Galazzo and Luca Giusberti, both of the University of Padova. This paper, more in line with her usual research, examines unicellular organisms of the deep sea floor that suffered extinction due to a prior period of global warming. It appeared in Climate of the Past.

Working once again with Boscolo-Galazzo and Giusberti and several other scholars, Thomas co-authored, “The Planktic Foraminifer Planorotalites in the Tethyan Middle Eocene” in the Journal of Micropaleontology. This paper describes the researchers’ use of stable isotope analysis to distinguish between floating planktonic matter from bottom-dwelling foraminifera. Through this analysis, they discuss environmental changes during a relatively period of global warming that took place between approximately 9 and 40 million years ago.

“Late Paleocene-Middle Eocene Benthic Foraminifera on a Pacific Seamount (Allison Guyot, ODP Site 865):Greenhouse Climate and Superimposed Hyperthermal Events,” appeared in Paleoceanography. It discusses deep-sea faunas during the same period in the article from the paragraph above. The two other authors of the paper were mentored by Thomas and briefly visited Wesleyan while under her supervision.

The final paper, “Oxygen depletion recorded in upper waters of the glacial Southern Ocean,” appeared in Nature Communications. This paper documents Thomas’s collaborative research with several scholars and PhD students on Antarctic environments during the last few ice ages. In particular, their work focuses on benthic foraminifera, and chemical analysis of their shells.

Science, Mathematics Students Share Their Ongoing Research at Poster Session

On April 14, the final day of WesFest, a select group of Wesleyan students gathered in the Exley Science Center Lobby to share some of their research projects in the natural sciences and mathematics. This relatively small gathering represented only a fraction of the 150 students on campus actively engaged in natural science and mathematics research.

Harim Jung ’16 presented his research done with Cameron Arkin ’17, “Electrophysiological Correlates of Rhythm and Syntax in Music and Language.“ Their faculty advisor is Assistant Professor of Psychology Psyche Loui.

Harim Jung ’16 presented his research done with Cameron Arkin ’17, “Electrophysiological Correlates of Rhythm and Syntax in Music and Language.“ Their faculty advisor is Assistant Professor of Psychology Psyche Loui.

5 Undergraduates Receive Doris Duke Conservation Scholarships

Doris Duke Conservation Scholar Olivia Won ’18 is interested in addressing issues of climate justice by reorienting environmental action to work through a place-based, social justice lens.

Doris Duke Conservation Scholar Olivia Won ’18 is interested in addressing issues of climate justice by reorienting environmental action to work through a place-based, social justice lens.

In April, the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program presented scholarships to five Wesleyan undergraduate students. As Doris Duke Scholars, Olivia Won ’18, Emily Murphy ’18, Ryan Nelson ’19, Gabby Vargas ’18 and Kelly Lam ’19 will receive two summer experiential learning and research opportunities at the University of Washington and the University of Michigan.

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation initiated the Conservation Scholars programs at several universities across the country in 2013 with the intention of attracting and training members of under-represented communities in the field of conservation. Over the course of their two years in the program, the scholars will work right alongside conservation professional and researchers that will serve as mentors.

“More than ever, the conservation field needs to increase its efforts to attract, train and employ individuals from communities

‘Sapien’ Highlights Behar ’77 for Anthropological, Poetic Collaborations with Cuba

Ruth Behar ’77, a Cuban-born anthropologist, is co-creator of Bridges to/from Cuba, a blog for stories related to the Cuban Diaspora. (photo by Gabriel Frye Behar)

Ruth Behar ’77, a Cuban-born anthropologist, is co-creator of “Bridges to/from Cuba,” a blog for stories related to Cuba and the Cuban Diaspora. (Photo by Gabriel Frye Behar)

An article in the journal Sapiens highlights the current work of anthropologist Ruth Behar in “Lifting the Emotional Embargo With Cuba.” Working with poet Richard Blanco, the two are “cultivating reunion and reconciliation among people and cultures that have been estranged for decades,” said author Barry Yeoman.

Cuba is part of both the poet’s and the anthropologist’s identities. While Blanco grew up hearing about Cuba from his ex-pat community in Miami, Behar was born in Havana, Cuba. Her parents were of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish descent who moved the family to New York City after the Cuban revolution. As a child in New York she gravitated to poetry, which she admits, “offered a refuge…a way to be myself.”

While attending Wesleyan, Behar took a class taught by anthropologist Johannes Fabian that provided a wider lens through which to view other cultures. After graduating from Wesleyan with a College of Letters major, Behar pursued this new passion by enrolling in a PhD program in cultural anthropology at Princeton University.

Throughout her career as a cultural anthropologist Behar has attempted to meld these two interests and her cultural heritage. During the 1990s, she returned to her birth country where she published a bi-lingual poetry collection while studying poet-anthropologists such as Edward Sapir and Ruth Benedict.

When President Obama announced the renewal of Cuban and American diplomatic relations in late 2014, Behar felt compelled to explore this deeply personal and historical division. She began to collaborate with Blanco on a new project that would reconcile poetry and ethnography, and Cuban and American identity. The two named the project “Bridges to/from Cuba.” It consists of a bilingual blog that serves as a unified space for the various stories of Cubans and those of Cuba’s diaspora.

Writing about one of the duo’s visits to Cuba, Yeoman observed Behar’s comfort in this role of cultural bridge-builder. “She was spending the afternoon with two good friends who live in countries that have historically been at odds—countries that form the halves of her own identity—and the relationship between their governments was starting to relax,” he wrote.

Behar currently teaches at the University of Michigan and has received honors that include the MacArthur “Genius” Grant, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Fulbright Senior Fellowship.

Kaiser Permanente’s McCulloch ’76 Named a Top-10 Exec

Andy McCulloch ’76, president of Kaiser Permanente, was named a top-10 executive by Portland Business Journal.

Andy McCulloch ’76, president of Kaiser Permanente, was named a top-10 executive by Portland Business Journal.

The Portland Business Journal named Kaiser Permanente President Andy McCulloch ’76 one of the top 10 executives of 2016. This award honors area executives whose business strategies have successfully expanded their companies over the last year.

During the past year with Kaiser Permanente, McCulloch boosted membership by 3 percent while maintaining a member retention rate of 97 percent. In just their two hospitals, Kaiser Permanente physicians logged 3 million doctor visits and 420,000 dental appointments while earning $3.4 billion in yearly revenue.

McCulloch began his presidency in 2006 and directs Kaiser Permanente in Oregon and Washington State. During this time, the company has been ranked as one of the highest performing healthcare systems in the region. For five consecutive years Medicare has given the Northwest Region’s Medicare Advantage plan a five star rating while the National Commission for Quality Assurance recently rated the Northwest’s Medicare and commercial plan as the highest in the region.

After earning a BA in government from Wesleyan, McCulloch receive a master’s degree in health administration degree from the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health. Prior to joining Kaiser Permanente, he held executive positions at the University of North Carolina Health Care System, the University of Washington Health Sciences Center, Peace Health and Mercy Health.

6 Alumni Receive 2016 Guggenheim Fellowships

David Rabban ’71 was awarded a 2016 Guggenheim for his work in constitutional studies.

David Rabban ’71 was awarded a 2016 Guggenheim for his work in constitutional studies.

On April 5, six Wesleyan alumni–David Rabban ’71, Roxanne Euban ’88, Lyle Ashton Harris ’88, Rick Barot ’92, Adam Berinsky ’92 and Jonas Carpignano ’06–were each awarded Guggenheim Fellowships by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. According to the foundation, these prestigious awards aim to “further the development of scholars and artists by assisting them to engage in research in any field of knowledge and creation in any of the arts, under the freest possible conditions and irrespective of race, color or creed.”

Rabban is an award winning author and academic whose research focuses on labor law, higher education and the law, and American legal history. For his 1997 book Free Speech in its Forgotten Years, he received the Morris D. Forkosch Prize presented by the Journal of the History of Ideas and the Eli M. Oboler Award of the American Library Association Intellectual Freedom Round Table. From 1998 to 2006 he served as the General Counsel of the American Association of University Professors and from 2006 to 2012 as the Chair of the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

Over the course of his career Rabban has earned fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Whitney Humanities center, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and other institutions. During his Guggenheim Fellowship, he intends to author a book the history, theory, and law of academic freedom.

Lyly Ashton Harris was awarded a 2016 Guggenheim for photography. (Photo by Rob Kulisek.)

Lyly Ashton Harris ’88 was awarded a 2016 Guggenheim for photography. (Photo by Rob Kulisek)

Lyle Ashton Harris ’88 received his fellowship for his contributions in the field of photography. On his website, Harris writes that his work “explores intersections between the personal and the political, examining the impact of ethnicity, gender and desire on the contemporary social and cultural dynamic.” In particular, his projects are known for employing self-portraiture and using iconic figures in popular culture such as Billie Holiday and Michael Jackson.

Rick Barot ’92 received a 2016 Guggenheim for poetry. (Photo by Mara Barot.)

Rick Barot ’92 received a 2016 Guggenheim for poetry. (Photo by Mara Barot)

Harris has exhibited his work around the globe at institutions like the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the 52nd Venice Biennale. After graduating from Wesleyan, Harris went on to receive his MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. He currently lives in New York City where he teaches at New York University.

Rick Barot ’92, a poet, published his most recent collection of poems, Chord, with Sarabande Books in 2015. The book was a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize and the PEN Open Book award and won the 2016 UNT Rilke Prize. Barot has published two other titles with Sarabande Books, The Darker Fall (2002) and Want (2008), which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and won the 2009 Grub Street Book Prize.

Barot resides in Tacoma, Wash., where he directs The Rainier Writing Workshop, the low-residency MFA program in creative writing at Pacific Lutheran University. He serves as the poetry editor of New England Review.

Adam Berinsky ’92, professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a specialist in the fields of political behavior and public opinion. His work focuses primarily on questions of representation and the communication of public sentiment to the political elite.

Adam J. Berinsky ’92 was awarded a 2016 Guggenheim for political science.

Adam Berinsky ’92 was awarded a 2016 Guggenheim for political science.

He has authored two books, In Time of War (University of Chicago Press, 2009) and Silent Voices (Princeton University Press, 2004). He has received multiple grants from the National Science Foundation and was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

He currently edits the University of Chicago Press’s Chicago Studies in American Politics book series and is the founding director of the MIT Political Experiments Research Lab. During his fellowship, Berinsky intends to study the spread of political rumors spread and how they can be effectively debunked.

Jonas Carpignano ’06 received a 2016 Guggenheim for film and video.

Jonas Carpignano ’06 received a 2016 Guggenheim for film and video.

Writer and director Jonas Carpignano’s most recent film, Mediterranea, had its world premier at the prestigious 2015 Cannes Film Festival. Since then, it has screened at festivals such as BFI London Film Festival, AFI Fest and Stockholm Film Festival where it won three awards including Best Debut Film and Best Actor. The film was also a New York Times critics’ pick.

Carpignano’s two short films, A Chjàna (2011) and A Ciambra (2014), have won many international awards including the Controcampo Award at the 68th Venice Film Festival and The Discovery Award at 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Currently, Carpignano is working on a feature film based on A Ciambra that has received the support of various institutions such as the Torino Film Lab and the Sundance Institute.

Roxanne L. Euban ’88 was awarded a 2016 Guggenheim for her work in political science.

Roxanne L. Euban ’88 was awarded a 2016 Guggenheim for her work in political science.

Since 1997 Roxanne Euben ’88 has served as the Ralph Emerson and Alice Freeman Palmer Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College. Her work has spearheaded a new area of inquiry often referred to as “comparative political theory.” This entails an “understanding of political theory…as inclusive of intellectual traditions of the “non-West” and global South, as well as of indigenous traditions in but not of ‘the West.'” In particular, she also focuses on the relationship between Islamic and European political thought.

Euben is also the author of several books including Enemy in the MirrorIslamic Fundamentalism and the Limits of Modern Rationalism (Princeton 1999, Oxford 2001) and Journeys to the Other Shore: Muslim and Western Travelers in Search of Knowledge, (Princeton, 2006). Her writing has also appeared in a number of scholarly and widely read publications including The Review of PoliticsThe Journal of PoliticsInternational Studies Review, the Atlantic’s digital magazine and The London Times Higher Education Supplement.

While on her fellowship, Euben will work on a book that examines Arab and Islamic rhetorics of humiliation in comparative perspective.

NPR Previewed SXSW Performers Elion ’15 and Mitchell ’15 of Overcoats

Hana Elion ’15 and JJ Mitchell ’15 are Overcoats. Recently, the duo performed at South By Southwest Music Festival. (photo credit: Lex Voight)Hana Elion ’15 and JJ Mitchell ’15 are Overcoats. Recently, the duo performed at South By Southwest Music Festival. (photo credit: Lex Voight)

Hana Elion ’15 and JJ Mitchell ’15 are Overcoats. Recently, the duo performed at South By Southwest Music Festival.

NPR’s All Songs Considered featured the former Wesleyan band Overcoats in its preview of the 2016 South by Southwest Music festival in Austin Texas. Overcoats, made up of Hana Elion ’15 and JJ Mitchell ’15, have made the leap from small on-campus concerts to performances in New York City’s Mercury Lounge and the Longitude Festival in Ireland. Currently, Overcoats resides in New York City where they are performing and recording new music in studio.

Overcoats describe their style as “combining electronic backdrops with soaring, harmonic intimacy — a sort of Chet Faker meets Simon & Garfunkel.” Their songs “draw strength from vulnerability, finding uplifting beauty in simple, honest songwriting,“ the duo write.

In their preview, NPR host Bob Boilen wrote, “The charming East Coast duo Overcoats reminds me of [the Scandinavian folk duo] My bubba — the heart of what these two do is in the playfulness of their vocal performances.”