Dr. Celine Gounder gives WUD lecture on health, social justice ties


Dr. Celine Gounder joined the Wisconsin Union Directorate’s Distinguished Lecture Series virtual event Tuesday night to speak about the vital intersection of health and social justice.

Dr. Gounder is a world-renowned infectious disease specialist, epidemiologist, medical journalist, filmmaker and the CEO, Founder and President of Just Human Productions, a nonprofit organization that produces documentaries and podcasts on health and social justice. She currently serves as a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at New York University and regularly appears on networks like CNN, BBC and CBS as a medical expert and analyst.

She is the host and producer of American Diagnosis, a podcast focusing on health and social justice and also co-hosts and produces the podcast Epidemic about COVID-19 with Ronald Klain. 

At her lecture, Dr. Gounder highlighted health and social justice in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, and described how gender, money, age, race and education can further emphasize divides in the long-term health of individuals. 

Dr. Gounder began the virtual lecture with a vivid description of a young boy’s upbringing in rural India in the late 1950’s. 

Described as the “runt of the litter,” this boy attended school — an uncommon practice at the time — while his brothers worked on the family farm; he went to college, moved out of the country, went to graduate school and arrived in Chicago at the height of the civil rights movement. 

This boy was Dr. Gounder’s father.

“I am advantaged and burdened by my father’s story, as well as this country’s story: all that came even before my parents emigrated to the U.S. and how that history still shapes people’s lives today.” Dr. Gounder explained. 

With experience working at indigenous health facilities across the country, Dr. Gounder described the Navajo peoples’ history in the U.S. The brutal colonization, the forced relocation and violence, the New Mexican slave trade and the current climate in the Navajo community, ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Health is historical and only through that history can we heal ourselves and our nation,” Dr. Gouder emphasized.

Dr. Gouder further explained how connected the current global health crisis is to American society and institutions. 

“[In recent history,] health became an individual commodity and responsibility, no longer — if it ever was — a social good.” said Dr. Gounder.

“The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the vulnerabitlities created by our nation’s history, our history of slavery, genocide and second class citizenship; our history of land theft and the theft of natural resources. The theft of ways of life, language and culture — double standards when it comes to health and safety protections on the job, double standards when it comes to a right to health and healthcare.” 

Learn more about Dr. Gouder here

For more information about upcoming WUD DLS events check out their website here.

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