World-renown health researcher Dr. B. Lee Green came to Sam Houston State University Wednesday night to present his experiences as a leader in the field of health disparities.
As the director of the Center for the Study of Health Disparities at Texas A&M University, Green has produced over 50 publications and has been awarded over $14 million in research grants.
The center serves as an educational tool for the university’s Department of Health and Kinesiology as well as a research tool for issues such as diabetes, childhood obesity and mental health among African-American men.
Green told the story of his diabetic grandmother and how he first became interested in the field of medical research.
“As a child, I watched my grandmother struggle with diabetes. It got so bad, she eventually had to move in with us,” Green said. “It was painful having to watch her come back from the hospital without a toe, without a foot, and then without legs.”
After earning his bachelors and masters degrees from Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia, Green attended the University of Alabama where he earned his Ph. D.
His dissertation focused on health behaviors of African Americans and revealed that black citizens are more resistant to seeing a physician or partaking in health research.
“It’s an issue of trust,” Green said. “They did not trust the medical system.”
One issue Green found to have an impact on African Americans’ medical decisions was an event known as the “Tuskeegee Syphilis Study.”
Due to a government study in which African American men with syphilis were studied from 1932-1972 without their knowledge or consent, many African Americans had grown leery of taking part in any type of medical research.
Eventually, the government made a formal apology to the men and their families. Green heard one of the subjects of the study say something he never expected.
“I heard a reporter ask one of the men what he would tell African Americans today when they are approached about participating in a health research study. I thought for sure he’d say run the other way as fast as you can,” Green said. “But he didn’t. He said that what happened to him was unfortunate, but if we African Americans don’t take part in studies, then we’re the one’s who lose out.”
According to Green, America ranks in the mid-twenties in the world when it comes to healthcare. Green believes that not only should we focus on getting minorities to visit their doctors, but we must focus on everyone.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Green said. “We’re not going to eliminate health disparities until we eliminate the health access problem.”
Through his research work, Green said his number one goal is to have an impact on the community. If his research work does not reach the community, then he said his work is pointless.