The Consortium conducts original research, serves students and faculty, and advances public dialogue and understanding on emerging issues at the intersection of science and society.
In the wake of another fatal police shooting of an African-American man, Philando Castile, who was killed during a traffic stop in a Twin Cities suburb, there's been an increased focus on racial inequities in Minnesota. One of the scholars with the longest history of studying these issues, Myron Orfield, JD, is on the faculty of the University of Minnesota's Law School; since Castile's death, Orfield has been widely interviewed discussing housing segregation, unequal policy enforcement, and other aspects of the state's institutionalized racism. Minnesota suffers from a yawning academic achievement gap between white students and students of color; the worst record of financial inequity in the nation; and a serious problem with socioeconomic and health disparities. A recent lecture hosted by the Consortium, by Prof. Sidney Watson, JD (University of St. Louis Law School) describes tools in the Affordable Care Act to increase health justice; that talk can be viewed online.
An article in the New York Times features recently published research by Alexander Khoruts, MD (Microbiota Therapeutics Program) and Michael J. Sadowsky, PhD (Director, Consortium member the Biotechnology Institute). They are among the scientists trying to understand the mechanisms enabling transplanted fecal matter to fight potentially fatal Clostridium difficile infections. While Khoruts and Sadowsky are currently focusing on the chemistry of the human gut, specifically bile acids, other researchers are looking at microbes known as archaea, and still others are considering the role of bacteria-infecting viruses. Understanding the human microbiome is notoriously complex; as Prof. Khoruts notes, it's "something nature put together over millions and millions of years.” View Prof. Khoruts' recent lecture on the human microbiome here.
A request by Cesar DeLeon to discontinue force feeding has been denied by Circuit Court Judge Steven Bauer. DeLeon is one of several Wisconsin prisoners who began a hunger strike in early June to protest long-term solitary confinement, which in the case of one of the strikers has lasted more than 25 years. In his suit, DeLeon cited free-speech and religious grounds and accused a prison guard of withholding water during the force feeding procedure, which is necessary to avoid food and liquids being aspirated. Prof. Steven Miles, MD, of Consortium member the Center for Bioethics was interviewed for an article by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Miles notes that "force feeding of prisoners is condemned by most major medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The World Medical Association has declared that 'the forced feeding of hunger strikers is unethical and is never justified,' calling the practice 'inhuman and degrading.'” Miles asserts that "prisoners’ refusal to eat should not be viewed in medical terms alone, saying 'A hunger strike is fundamentally a form of political expression by persons or groups which have exhausted other forms of political expression.'"
In an article that "is apparently the first by a sitting president to be published by the [Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)]" according to NPR, Barack Obama, JD, reviews the effects the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has had since it was passed in 2010. He notes, "Since the Affordable Care Act became law, the uninsured rate has declined by 43%, from 16.0% in 2010 to 9.1% in 2015, primarily because of the law’s reforms." The article goes on to describe remaining "major opportunities to improve the health care system," including offering a government-run insurance plan, the so-called public option, as part of the ACA. While Obama advocates for Congress to revisit the idea of "a public plan to compete alongside private insurers in areas of the country where competition is limited," the public option has been controversial thus far and was dropped from the health law prior to its passage because of fears it represented a step toward fully government-run system.