+
More

There's a place in Alabama called Tuskegee. 2 very different things happened here.

I was driving through the South with my family recently, and we happened through the town of Tuskegee, Alabama. Two things popped into my mind: The Tuskegee Airmen and some experiment with syphilis. Wait, what?! Somehow, my brain was not able to sort those two very different things out, so I had to do a bit of research. What I found was bittersweet because one story is so damned horrifying and the other so inspiring.


Two Tuskegee Experiments

Two distinctly different social experiments happened in Tuskegee during the last century. One was the World War II Tuskegee Airmen program — African-American fighter and bomber pilots, mechanics, instructors, crew chiefs, nurses, cooks, and other support personnel for the pilots. The first of its kind, it made heroes of them in the eyes of many, including many African-Americans who at the time were largely prevented from even voting because of Jim Crow laws.

The second? A bizarre and terrifying result of people thinking that African-Americans were somehow “other" or “less than." Stretching a span of 40 years (from 1932 to 1972), it involved 600 African-American sharecroppers.


The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

The U.S Public Health Service began the study in 1932 with the help of the Tuskegee Institute, a local college. 600 poor, largely illiterate sharecroppers were enrolled in the program, and 399 of them already had syphilis. They were given free medical care, meals, and free burial insurance for being a part of the study. But while the people studying them knew they had syphilis, the men themselves did not; they knew it as “bad blood," which could be anything from chronic fatigue-like symptoms to anemia and syphilis. It was officially dubbed "The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male."

In 1947, medical researchers figured out that there was a simple cure for the disease: penicillin. However (and this is where things really went off the rails), those in charge of the study decided not to treat any of the patients, and prevented any of them from accessing other successful syphilis treatment programs in the area. This despite the fact that every major textbook at the time strongly advocated treating syphilis at any and all stages. If that had actually been the guidepost for the “research" team in charge of this study, it might have ended quickly. Instead, hundreds died painful deaths from the disease and infected spouses and children (through congenital syphilis).

Why did this study continue despite all of that? Very simple. At the time, there was a narrative among many in the white academic and medical communities about African-American people, and specifically men: that they were sexually promiscuous and reluctant to seek treatment.

Basically, the study assumed that black men would never seek treatment for the disease anyway, so it was much better to let it run its course and study them rather than offer offer a treatment like antibiotics that was widely available by the early 1950s and would have worked.

This continued throughout the 1950s and '60s. Ultimately, the study was terminated in 1972 when someone leaked it to the press. Since then, it's been known as “The Infamous Syphilis Study," and it led to rule changes for informing participants in scientific studies.

On the other end of the “Treating people like humans and equals" scale in Tuskegee was the Tuskegee Airmen.

The WWII Fighter and Bomber Squadrons

Before the Tuskegee Airmen, no African-American had been a U.S. military pilot. But in the two decades leading up to World War II, a number of groups and individuals, including the NAACP and labor union leader A. Philip Randolph pushed for legislation to fund training for African-American men to become pilots. It was successful. And though they had to work in segregated units, they formed the 99th Pursuit Squadron in 1941, later named the 332nd Fighter Group. A bomber squadron was added later, the 477th Bombardment Group. Some also served as support personnel for the units.

Because of enforced segregation, it was referred to as the Tuskegee Experiment. Pilots believed it was called an "experiment" because it was designed to fail. However, it did not.

(It's worth noting that the infamous syphilis experiment above is basically the entire first two pages of search results when you Google "Tuskegee Experiment," though that was officially referred to as a study, rather than an experiment.)

There were only 124 African-American pilots in the entire nation at the time this experiment began, so there was skepticism about getting enough pilots. Eventually, so many applied and met the stringent qualifications that over 996 airmen entered the service, as well as 10,000 support personnel. They were trained at Tuskegee Institute — ironically, the same school that was, at the same time, conducting the syphilis experiment.

Training had been going for just five months when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt decided to drop in on March 21, 1941, and have the chief instructor, an African-American named C. Alfred "Chief" Anderson, fly her around a bit. He had been a pilot since 1929 and had trained thousands of rookie pilots. The demo flight went very well, and it got the media talking.

As training progressed and the skills became more technical, in some cases integrating the white and black pilots was the only way to train them. Out of necessity, this began to break down the segregation that the experiment began with.

The Tuskegee Airmen's main job was to fly fighter planes to accompany bomber missions and keep enemy aircraft from shooting down the much larger, more cumbersome bombers that their white colleagues flew.

Missions and Numbers

The pilots did combat duty in Europe, North Africa, and the Mediterranean. In the end, the squadron was very well decorated:

  • 450 pilots served
  • 66 died in combat
  • 33 became prisoners of war
  • Flew over 700 bomber escort missions, and were the only fighter group to never lose an escorted bomber to enemy fighters
  • Destroyed 251 enemy aircraft
  • Won over 850 medals including:
    • Distinguished Flying Cross (150)
    • Bronze Star (14)
    • Air medals and clusters (744)
    • Distinguished Unit Citation (3)
    • Purple Heart (8)

The experiment dispelled a U.S. Army War College study of black troops from World War I, which concluded that black soldiers were "subservient," "mentally inferior," and "barely fit for combat."

The Tuskegee Airmen proved, to those who still doubted it, that African-Americans were every bit as capable as anybody else in getting the job done. And it gave young kids who grew up with very few choices the hope that they could aspire to greatness.

Here's a quick clip on one of the battles, as relived by a pilot who was there. If you want to see the entire 45-minute version, a link to it is below.

Now my mind is much clearer on what happened in Tuskegee. The next time we go through that part of the country, I think I'll explore some history in person.

Joy

Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

Keep ReadingShow less
All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

The mesmerizing lost art of darning knit fabric.

For most of human history, people had to make their own clothing by hand, and sewing skills were subsequently passed down from generation to generation. Because clothing was so time-consuming and labor-intensive to make, people also had to know how to repair clothing items that got torn or damaged in some way.

The invention of sewing and knitting machines changed the way we acquire clothing, and the skills people used to possess have largely gone by the wayside. If we get a hole in a sock nowadays, we toss it and replace it. Most of us have no idea how to darn a sock or fix a hole in any knit fabric. It's far easier for us to replace than to repair.

But there are still some among us who do have the skills to repair clothing in a way that makes it look like the rip, tear or hole never happened, and to watch them do it is mesmerizing.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
Keep ReadingShow less