THE POWER TO HEAL - Film Screening & Panel Discussion

The Power To Heal | Transforming America's Segregated Hospitals

POWER TO HEAL is an hour-long public television documentary that tells a poignant chapter in the historic struggle to secure equal and adequate access to healthcare for all Americans. Central to the story is the tale of how a new national program, Medicare, was used to mount a dramatic, coordinated effort that desegregated thousands of hospitals across the country in a matter of months. 

Before Medicare, disparities in access to hospital care were dramatic. Less than half the nation's hospitals served black and white patients equally, and in the South, 1/3 of hospitals would not admit African-Americans even for emergencies. 

Using the carrot of Medicare dollars, the federal government virtually ended the practice of racially segregating patients, doctors, medical staffs, blood supplies and linens. POWER TO HEAL illustrates how Movement leaders and grass-roots volunteers pressed and worked with the federal government to achieve justice and fairness for African-Americans.  

Through the voices of the men and women who experienced disparities and fought against them, POWER TO HEAL will introduce a broad, prime-time national audience on PBS to a missing link in the Civil Rights Movement -- a struggle over healthcare from a half-century ago, that raises questions that resonate today: is healthcare a human right? Must the federal government intervene to ensure equality?


  • Film Screening

  • Panel Discussion

Evelynn M. Hammonds, PhD (Moderator)
Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz Professor of the History of Science, Professor of African and African American Studies, Chair, Department of the History of Science; Harvard University

Michael Meltsner, JD (Featured in the Film)
George J. and Kathleen Waters Matthews Distinguished University Professor of Law, Northeastern University School of Law

Alvin F. Poussaint, MD (Featured in the Film)
Professor of Psychiatry, Faculty Associate Dean for Student Affairs, Harvard Medical School

David B. Smith, PhD (Author of the Book)

Research Professor, Health Care Management and Policy, Dornsife School of Public Health, Drexel University;
Professor Emeritus, Health Care Management and Policy, Temple University
Author of the Book:  The Power to Heal: Civil Rights, Medicare and the Struggle to Transform America’s Health  System.  Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press 2016.  Recipient of the Goldberg Prize for the best book in the area of medicine.

David R. Williams, PhD
Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Professor of African and African American Studies and Sociology, Harvard University

  • Reception

Tosteson Medical Education Center (TMEC) Amphitheater
Harvard Medical School, 260 Longwood Avenue, Boston

RSVP by Monday, April 23rd:

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Hosted by Harvard Medical School Office for Diversity Inclusion and Community Partnership

Harvard Medical School Office for Diversity Inclusion and Community Partnership
Harvard Medical School Arts and Humanities Initiative
Project on Race & Gender in Science & Medicine at the Hutchins Center
Museum of African American History
Center for the History of Medicine | Countway Library of Medicine
MGH The Disparities Solutions Center


Event Date: 
Tuesday, May 1, 2018 - 5:30pm to 8:30pm