Pitt will rename hall honoring former dean linked to syphilis experiments
The University of Pittsburgh Board of Trustees has voted to remove from a housing complex the name of a former dean tied to experiments that infected Guatemalans with syphilis and deceived African-American men who had the disease, Pitt announced Friday.
Dr. Thomas Parran Jr., after whom a Graduate School of Public Health building is named, was the nation’s surgeon general from 1936 to 1948. He helped found the School of Public Health and was its first dean from 1948 until 1958, according to a report from a committee Pitt created to review the hall’s name.
The infamous Tuskegee study, in which researchers monitored syphilis in African-American men while falsely telling the men they were treating the disease, ran from 1932 to 1972. From 1946 to 1948, American researchers exposed more than 1,300 Guatemalans, including prisoners and mental institution patients, to syphilis and other diseases without informed consent, according to the report.
The Board of Trustees named the hall in 1969, before information on the experiments became public.
The decision to remove Parran’s name from the hall follows recommendations from the committee and from Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. In addition to changing the name, Pitt will “design and implement new programs to address the complex legacy of Thomas Parran,” Graduate School of Public Health Dean Donald Burke said in a news release.
The school will remove markers and plaques with Parran’s name “in coming weeks,” according to the release. A new name hasn’t yet been decided.
Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, [email protected] or via Twitter @wesventeicher.