The year was 1968. At the Medical College of Virginia, (today a part of Virginia Commonwealth University) Bruce Tucker, a Black man, had his heart transplanted — without his family’s consent — into a white businessman. Tucker’s family sought legal justice and the attorney who represented them was L. Douglas Wilder, who went on to become the first elected African-American governor in the United States. The case exemplified a journey to fight racism and demand accountability for a gross violation of human rights.
The 2022 Wilder Symposium, “Racism, Health, and Accountability” was held in person, Monday, Sept. 19 at the VCU Singleton Center for Performing Arts.
As the signature speaker, Governor L. Douglas Wilder discussed the complex ethical issues exposed during the case and examined its lasting historic impact today. Wilder traced the role of institutionalized racism to the ongoing battle for healthcare equity and access. He also fielded questions from moderator Wilder School Dean Susan Gooden and audience members.
Hosted by the Wilder School and University College, this symposium is part of a larger series based on the 2022-2023 VCU Common Book, "The Organ Thieves: The Shocking Story of the First Heart Transplant in the Segregated South" by Chip Jones. The book follows a long legacy of inhumane treatment of African Americans for unethical medical advancement in the segregated south. The award-winning book will be read by first-year VCU students and will be a focus area for events across campus this fall.
There are many ways to support the Symposium. Donations of $101, $501, and $1,001, represent our mission to "do one better" than the injustice of the lawsuit’s outcome. Every dollar counts, so we encourage you to make a gift of any amount. Proceeds will benefit the Symposium and support scholarships at the Wilder School for students who demonstrate a strong interest in elevating marginalized voices.
You’ll notice that the traditional gift levels include a few extra dollars. That is in recognition of the judge in the 1972 trial lowering the available compensation. The amounts symbolize our hope to continue moving forward by confronting the past to build a brighter future.
If your organization is interested in sponsoring this event and joining us in advancing health equity, please review the 2022 Wilder Symposium Sponsorship Levels PDF document.