MLK Memorial Lecture Addresses History of Racism in Medicine

Dr. Carolyn Roberts will give her talk, Historical Roots of Racism in Science and Medicine, on Jan. 17 at 10 a.m. CST.
Posted on January 12th, 2022 by

Gustavus Adolphus College is pleased to welcome Dr. Carolyn Roberts virtually as the 2022 Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Speaker. Her talk, Historical Roots of Racism in Science and Medicine, will take place Monday, January 17 at 10 a.m. CST as a livestream webinar.

As Rev. Dr. King said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.” The keynote talk will call attention to this vital but sometimes overlooked aspect of King’s legacy by focusing on present-day crises related to race, racism, and health. 

“He was very much focused on issues of inequality and the structural racism within our country including within our healthcare system,” said Barb Larson Taylor ’93, associate vice president of marketing and communication. “What does that mean for a place like Gustavus where there’s a lot of our students that have an interest in healthcare or different aspects of science? Even though that’s not every student, we think Dr. Roberts will have a message that everyone should learn about.” 

Dr. Roberts is an historian of medicine and science at Yale University. She holds a joint appointment in the departments of History/History of Science and Medicine, and African American Studies. She also holds a secondary appointment at Yale School of Medicine in the Program in the History of Medicine. Her research interests concern the history of race, science, and medicine in the context of slavery and the Atlantic slave trade. This includes attention to the critical role played by African and African-descended medical and health knowledge in the Atlantic world.

Roberts is also a well-regarded workshop leader and speaker. She brings critical historical perspectives to anti-racism interventions in science, medicine, and public health. Roberts has contributed to institutional efforts to diversify STEM, including anti-racist pedagogy and curricula. She has worked with a variety of corporations, non-profit organizations, and institutions including PBS/NOVA, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Mt. Sinai Morningside, and several colleges and universities. 

Following the lecture, students and faculty/staff will have the opportunity to join virtual facilitated discussions about the topic over lunch.

Students also have the opportunity to meet with Dr. Roberts from 2:30-3:20 p.m. for an informal Q&A session about healthcare ethics. Any student interested in healthcare or research is encouraged to attend. A Zoom link is available on the MLK Day website

Dr. Roberts will then meet with faculty and staff on zoom from 3:30-5 p.m. about how design of STEM programs can advance inclusion.

“We think this format will be advantageous for our community to get an opportunity to have time with a person who is an expert in this area, and who has done really fascinating research on this topic,” says Taylor. 

The annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Celebration is sponsored by the Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies Department, the Office of the Chaplains, the Center for Inclusive Excellence, and the President’s Office. To learn more about the event, visit the MLK Day website.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin



  1. Thomas Snyder, MD says:

    I’m sorry I missed Dr Carolyn Roberts’s talk on racism in the history of medicine. Was it perchance recorded, and if so, may I access the recording?
    Thanks very much.

  2. JJ Akin '11 says:

    Hi Dr. Snyder, you can find the lecture on the Gustavus YouTube Channel here:

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