National Cancer Institute/Unsplash
Amana Liddell ’22 is pursuing a double major in biology and psychology and is a 2020-21 Hackworth Fellow at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Views are her own.
My Hackworth Fellowship has given me the opportunity to study how health care disparities have disproportionately impacted the Black community in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. I have had the chance to dig into historical instances that have contributed to contemporary health care outcomes and attitudes, like the story of Henrietta Lacks and the United States Public Health Service’s study of untreated syphilis in Macon County, Georgia. I have read journal articles, attended webinars, and collected resources to provide myself with information to disentangle the laundry list of things that contribute to the prevalence of racial health care disparities. And lastly, I have had the chance to hold conversations and share information about the research that I have done to various audiences. Ultimately, this fellowship allowed me to dig deeper into research that I have a deep passion for. Furthermore, it must be addressed because it is morally unacceptable that today’s minority communities undeservingly suffer the consequences of yesterday’s discrimination and the structures that have continued to perpetuate racial differences today.
With the creative freedom to present the information I believed was most important and impactful, I have been able to target my project to the Black community as they are affected by disparities in health care through their own experiences and those who can have a role in moving society forward to a system that allows each and every individual to have equal access to high-quality health care. To make any progress towards the eradication of health care disparities, a societal effort will be necessary because a joint and communal motivation and coordinated effort is necessary. I have developed an infographic that intends to communicate the most pressing and important issues about health care disparities and about practices central to COVID-19 that people within the Black community can employ to protect themselves. In the time that I have left, I hope to create a video or series of videos that present more information from my research that is accessible, easy to understand, and targeted towards the general public because effort towards progress does not fall on the Black community.
My goal has been to acknowledge that while research on COVID-19 has exposed stark differences in patient outcomes by race, there is equal truth behind the history that has led to mistrust in the medical community within the Black community. But, while that must be addressed, attributing COVID-19 disparities as a result of mistrust from history alone can be harmful if we don’t also acknowledge that contemporary experiences of discrimination contribute to the issue.
A quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been my northern light over the course of this fellowship, and it reads, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” I would be lying if I said that every moment of this fellowship has been easy. Even having a deep passion for being involved in combating health disparities, my fellowship has pushed me to feel so many emotions from pride and motivation about the work that I am doing to anger and frustration about discoveries of unwarranted injustice. Despite the struggle and joy that I have felt, Dr. King’s words continued to serve as a reminder that my work here is not done and that the fight must continue, even after my fellowship comes to an end. With the support of Dr. McLean, Dr. DeCosse, Thor Wasbotten, and this year's group of fellows, I have felt supported during every step of this journey--especially the difficult ones.
I couldn’t be more grateful for my experience as a Hackworth Fellow. I have grown as a student, a person, and had an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. My infographic and video project have given me the chance to make a change--whether it was helping someone on the fence about being vaccinated or giving someone else the tools and knowledge to participate in uncomfortable conversations about racial health care disparities and participate in this fight towards a more just health care system where race is not a key player in whether someone may live or die.
About Amana Liddell
"I am a junior and am double-majoring in biology and psychology. I am especially interested in and love learning about human development and getting a better understanding of why people are the way they are. In the future, I plan on going to medical school and becoming a doctor. More specifically, I hope to work in pediatrics in underserved communities. On campus, I am the Vice President of Delta Epsilon Mu, the professional pre-health fraternity, and have recently joined the SCU EMS Squad. In my free time I love to watch movies, go out to eat, and take day trips to the beach and San Francisco with friends."