Associate Dean and medical history and biomedics professor Dr. Richard Keller spoke Monday in Madison about the origins of the distrust in global health programs in postcolonial countries.
The speech, which was presented by Wisconsin Union Directorate, dealt with a variety of examples of colonial medicine, both current and in the 19th and 20th centuries.
In his speech “A Legacy of Mistrust: Colonial Medicine in the Global Present,” Keller quoted many important historical figures, including French General Louis Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey, during the period of Western Europe’s colonization. Lyautey stressed the importance of medicine in the role of colonizing Morocco.
“The physician, if he understands his job, is the most effective of our agents of pacification and penetration,” Lyautey wrote.
Keller said that using advanced medicine as a method to help control a country’s indigenous people has led to a global wariness of medical campaigns and the tension between global security and humanitarian efforts.
Though there are currently several fundamental problems with global health efforts, ranging from the power structure of the Gates Foundation to the length of stays in refugee camps, Keller said that motives have improved.
“Good intentions, it’s important to recognize, are plentiful with global health policy. The world without smallpox is certainly a better world; the world without polio is going to be better too,” Keller said. “But the suspicion and the mistrust that track along these axes of geopolitical and economic power in the globalized world have the capacity to derail even the most idealistic programs.”