YSM & Slavery Project Evaluation

My YSM & Slavery website project is a prototype for an institutional website sharing the preliminary findings of research into YSM’s history with slavery and, more generally, racial medicine. It aims to educate people already connected with YSM and the wider New Haven community about our findings and promote a conversation about how to relieve some of the medical inequalities rooted in our nation’s history with slavery and racism.

The YSM & Slavery website argues that slavery and racism are deeply embedded in the history of YSM and, more broadly, in the history of medicine in the United States. Even a medical school in New England, a region often considered unconnected with slavery, benefited financially, materially, and intellectually from slavery. Furthermore, the school and its faculty refused to ameliorate racial inequalities by educating more than a token few students of color, and the institution encouraged the persistence of racist thinking by including perceived racial differences in the curriculum.

It was difficult to balance between reaching a broad audience through engaging and accessible material with demonstrating the rigor of the research and without sensationalizing the findings. I ended up balancing these aspects by stressing where the findings came from both in the text and with pictures of the source material and by including vignettes with different tones. For instance, the Bodysnatching vignette has an interactive map element and makes what I hope is a clear argument by comparing two bodysnatchings with two very different outcomes. The Race and Curriculum vignette, by comparison, is much more textual and requires deeper consideration of what counts a race in medicine. These two vignettes will probably attract different kinds of readers and engagement, and I think that’s ultimately a positive as long as each audience finds its way to the content it’s interested in.

The value of the YSM & Slavery website (especially its official, institution version) is sharing our findings with the public, including people associated with YSM, the larger New Haven community, and people generally interested in histories of slavery, race, and medicine. To that end, tracking site visits, including number of visitors and length of visit, will be the main numerical way to evaluate the site’s effectiveness. Because we hope our research will spur dialog about the past to help create a more equitable present, the amount of discussion our research and the website create will also be important, but harder to measure, metrics. We can get a sense of how much discussion has been created through requests for further information and speaking opportunities, and we can see whether YSM makes any policy or curriculum changes in the next few years to judge the institutional impact.