September 22, 2021


Robert H. Levi Leadership Symposium in Bioethics and Health Policy
Susceptibility, Surveillance, and Stigma: A Conversation on History, Infectious Disease, and Genomics

Modern public health practices for both infectious and noninfectious diseases rely heavily on screening technologies that can predict disease or susceptibility to disease before symptoms are present. Testing technologies have focused on transmission for infectious diseases and on inheritance or susceptibility for genetic diseases, with each category raising social and ethical issues for the people and populations tested and ‘labeled’ with disease. Increasingly, the distinctions between the two types of testing (and diseases) are dissolving, raising a new constellation of social and ethical issues.

This public event will bring together a panel of experts to explore how screening technologies for infectious and noninfectious diseases have been used over time to understand and categorize not only disease, but also the people who have the disease. This moderated conversation will explore historical perspectives on (primarily genetic and infectious) disease causation and the relationship of causation to surveillance and stigma, with particular attention to the interplay with social and biological understandings of race.


Amy Fairchild, Dean and Professor, College of Public Health, Ohio State University

Robin Scheffler, Associate Professor, Program in Science, Technology, and Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Quayshawn Spencer, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania


Jeremy Greene, William H. Welch Professor of Medicine and the History of Medicine, and Director of the Department of the History of Medicine and the Center for Medical Humanities and Social Medicine, Johns Hopkins University