Deleso A. Alford, associate professor at Florida A&M; University College of Law and a renowned expert on the historical context of people marginalized in our healthcare system, will present a public lecture, "Why the Truth Matters: Stories Ignored by Our Healthcare, Research and Legal Systems," Thursday, June 14, at 6 p.m. in Domenici Center auditorium at UNM's Health Sciences Center.

Alford, who will be in residence this summer at the Health Sciences Center as the Office of Diversity's inaugural diversity visiting scholar, will discuss infamous instances of people marginalized by the American health care, research and legal systems. Alford, an engaging storyteller, will provide new perspectives on these stories:

  • Henrietta Lacks – her cells are used by research scientists worldwide, yet she was never compensated during her lifetime;

  • The Women of Tuskegee – the overlooked impact on women of the notorious U.S. Public Health Services Syphilis Study at Tuskegee; and

  • Experiments on Enslaved Women – the use of enslaved women, without anesthesia, for gynecological experiments by Marion Sims, known as the father of American gynecology.

Audience members will have an opportunity to engage in discussion following the lecture.

A new health equity program – initiated this year by the HSC's Office of Diversity and cosponsored by the UNM Division for Equity & Inclusion of the Office of the Provost and the UNM School of Law – the diversity visiting scholar program will bring nationally recognized scholars, educators, practitioners and leaders on issues of diversity and inclusion in residence at UNM to teach, conduct research and serve as a resource for the university and the wider community throughout New Mexico.

"Professor Alford's presence at UNM this summer as our inaugural diversity visiting scholar is an exciting opportunity for the university and the community to learn more about why diversity and why diversity in health – and specifically HSC's inclusive research agenda – is essential to the health and well-being of the people of New Mexico," said Valerie Romero-Leggott, vice chancellor for diversity at the UNM Health Sciences Center, associate dean of the School of Medicine and associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine. "We are delighted to host her as she meets and works with our students, faculty and staff and with community members."

Alford, who graduated magna cum laude from Southern University A&M College, holds a Juris Doctor from the Southern University Law Center and a master's degree in law from Georgetown University Law Center. She was a Fulbright scholar in Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire. She will begin a master's degree in bioethics this fall at the Medical College of Wisconsin. As a scholar, she focuses on integrating race-conscious feminist theory into cultural competence and on building links between law, medicine and the health professions, with a particular emphasis on the historically marginalized.

"A significant part of our health education curricula focuses on the underserved and underrepresented," said UNM Chancellor for health sciences and Dean, School of Medicine Paul Roth. "Understanding cultural influences enables health care providers an opportunity to improve health outcomes by cultivating empathy and understanding. In part, diversity and diverse perspectives can teach us why a patient is experiencing health issues and how a patient is willing to participate in his or her recovery and overall health."

Alford will be in residence at UNM June 11-July 27, working on her writing and hosting sessions with UNM students, faculty, staff and administrators. Alford also will work with the wider New Mexico community while she is at UNM. In addition to the June 14 public lecture, she will present a second major public lecture on Thursday, July 26, 6 p.m. in Domenici Center auditorium.

The UNM HSC Office of Diversity promotes diversity – including racial, ethnic, geographic, gender, sexual orientation and socio-economic diversity – in the Health Sciences Center and develops a variety of opportunities to address key issues in diversity. It offers summer and other programs to support students, from middle school through college and professional schools, to succeed in health careers. This year, the office is launching mentorship and leadership programs for UNM faculty of color. It also provides a forum for discussing issues concerning underrepresented and disadvantaged populations.

For more information about Alford's public lectures and community outreach, contact the UNM HSC Office of Diversity at (505) 272-2728.

Media Contact: Luke Frank, (505) 272-3679