By: Hannah Heitz
Dr. Benjamin said, “I don’t have anything. I’m pregnant.”
The nurse, without looking up, replied, “We treat that like any other illness.”
After that interaction, Dr. Benjamin decided on her senior year thesis, which focused on the medicalization of childbirth. She soon expanded her work to consider the medicalization of many other human conditions. For example, she described her work with ADHD, which discusses the current epidemic of ADHD. The rise in rates of ADHD is not due to a vast genetic shift so instead we should be asking what in the environment has shifted. The answer to that question is clear as children are increasingly surrounded by stimulating technology no matter where they are.
A student asked about her study of stem cell research. She responded by describing her analysis of two narratives behind the controversial research in California. The first narrative is based in scientific progress, policy, and federal level restrictions. The second narrative comes from patient advocates among California’s affluent citizens, which presents the policy of state funding of the research as a way of defying President Bush. Dr. Benjamin emphasized the importance of holistic context for understanding science, technology, and the future of research.
The hour-long lunch flew by, but Dr. Benjamin left the group thinking about the importance of looking beyond the problems and instead focusing on alternatives and thinking creatively. She encouraged us to change the discussion regarding what needs to be solved: old, white men are those making the decisions about what takes priority in research, but that will not solve the greatest health issues we face today for those who lack even basic care. Her future work will look at new initiatives to make science more participatory, such as current genomics studies in South Africa that will create a new sort of dynamic “slow science” (she compared this to the concept of “slow food”) where all groups, races, and classes are equally represented.
For more information: http://www.ruhabenjamin.com/