Congratulations to Derrick Webb and Charlye Williams!
The Institute of the History of Medicine extends our warmest congratulations to Derrick Webb and Charlye Williams, who conducted research as part of the Department of the History of Medicine’s Summer Research Early Identification Program (SREIP). The SREIP is coordinated by the Leadership Alliance, which connects promising undergraduates to fully-funded summer research opportunities.
At Johns Hopkins, SREIP students participate in the Humanities Collaboratory, an innovative peer-led environment designed and coordinated bv Dr. Natalie Strobach and Dr. Julie Lirot. Derrick and Charlye also studied with Dr. Jeremy Greene, chair of the Department of the History of Medicine, and Dr. Graham Mooney, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of the History of Medicine.
Please join us in congratulating Derrick Webb and Charlye Williams for the extraordinary and important research they completed this summer—and under difficult circumstances, due to the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. We are grateful that they chose to join the Department of the History of Medicine for the summer, and we look forward to learning how their scholarly and professional careers develop.
Charlye Williams, an undergraduate student at Howard University, aspires to train as a doula before attending medical school to become an obstetrician. Williams undertook a research project closely related to her professional goals. She studied the historical marginalization of African American midwives in the United States, and argued that historical analysis is key to addressing contemporary racial disparities in maternal health outcomes.
As she explained: “I chose this topic to help me better understand the positive influence midwives and doulas make on maternal health outcomes, as well as to give me a holistic perspective when practicing medicine as an OB/GYN. I would like to integrate the two professions to improve Black women’s health.”
Charlye envisions practical applications for the knowledge she gained. As she reflected, “with the experience I gain as a doula and the research I have done about midwives, I will apply that to modern medicine by listening to my patients and finding ways to make them feel more comfortable.” Analyzing healthcare “from a historian’s point of view has been essential in my academic career… [this training] helped me be a more critical thinker and allowed me to look at broader scopes of research” on maternal health disparities. Charlye’s supervisor for this research was Dr. Elizabeth O’Brien.
Derrick Webb joined us from New Orleans, where he is currently a student at Dillard University. He completed a research project entitled “Past, Present, and Future: The Historical Continuity of Medical Racism and COVID-19 vaccination within the Alabama Black Community.” His primary supervisor was Dr. Alexandre White.
Derrick’s project combined his interests in healthcare policy and advocacy, medical humanities, and biomedical ethics. He analyzed “how the COVID-19 vaccination provided a framework for exacerbated skepticism in the healthcare field as it relates to the Alabama Black community.” Like Charlye, Derrick’s research was initially inspired by his situated knowledge; as he explains, “Coming from a disadvantaged and underrepresented background ignited my passion to explore the problematic racial structures that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color endure daily in medicine.” Both scholars have valuable voices in these fields of study; their passion and dedication promise new insights into complex historical and social issues.
In the future Derrick hopes to expand his research “to the two southern states of Mississippi and Louisiana and examine widespread health disparities that plague both states and study the rural Black communities.” He also plans to pursue a dual M.D./M.P.H. or M.D./Ph.D. and work in healthcare policy in order to explore “methods that will combat health inequities and disparities and create a more diverse healthcare workforce for all.”