A lab focusing on the impact of social systems on the health of individuals and communities


State of Risk

A conversation about medicine's obsession with risk control and anticipatory treatments

Fields of Knowledge
  • Health / Sustainability
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions

Slought, Health Ecologies Lab


Sheila Shankar, Aaron Levy

Opens to public





4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

  • Care
  • Health

Slought and the Health Ecologies Lab are pleased to announce State of Risk, a conversation between scholars Robert Aronowitz and Lance Wahlert on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 from 6-7:30pm. The program will explore medicine's obsession with risk control and anticipatory treatments, and is presented with the Center for Public Health Initiatives (CPHI) and the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.

In Risky Medicine: Our Quest to Cure Fear and Uncertainty, Robert Aronowitz explores how patient experience is transformed by a health system that increasingly treats the risk of being ill, rather than illness itself. As vaccines, cancer screenings and other anticipatory treatments proliferate, the role of the provider, the patient, and the pharmaceutical company has shifted dramatically to foreground risk control and risk reduction. Aronowitz analyzes how the meaning and experience of being a patient changes when care is driven by fear and anxiety. He argues that the patient must make a career of their own care to navigate the complexity of over-medicalization.

Drawing from health policy, queer theory, and bioethics, Lance Wahlert similarly examines how fear and uncertainty affect patient-provider relations. Wahlert exposes the ways in which medical practitioners have unduly placed their fears and anxieties onto queer bodies. Embracing a "queer bioethics," Wahlert asks us to reconsider personhood and healing in relation to the value and dignity of queer life. The conversation at Slought will address these and other topics, including how risk has reshaped the patient experience as well as the relationship between patient and provider.

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Robert Aronowitz is professor and chair of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He completed his residency training in internal medicine at Pennsylvania Hospital before becoming a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at Penn. Aronowitz also co-founded and co-directed the Health and Societies Program, and the Penn site of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholars Program.

He is the author of Risky Medicine: Our Quest to Cure Fear & Uncertainty (2015) and his main areas of research are the history of 20th century disease, epidemiology, and population health.

Lance Wahlert is Assistant Professor of Medical Ethics & Health Policy, and Faculty Director of the Master of Bioethics Program in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. As Director of the Program on Bioethics, Sexuality, and Gender Identity, he oversees a sub-field within bioethics that intersects with LGBTQI health and medical ethics.

His work appeared in the Journal of Homosexuality, The American Journal of Bioethics, Cambridge Quarterly of Health Care Ethics, and the Journal of Medical Humanities.

"But in another more profound sense, my friend and his urologist were living on different sides of a historical transformation. My friend was resisting further involvement in a dense web of surveillance, risk assessment, and interventions that had been triggered by a routine blood test within a routine exam...But to his urologist, my friend suffered from a real disease, 'early' prostate cancer, and to abandon active surveillance was equivalent to giving up on the possibility of cure."

— Robert Aronowitz

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