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The inaugural Hess lecture took place on Monday, November 13 at 5:30. Dr. Reva E. Sias spoke on “The Rhetorical Presence and Activism of the First Nineteenth-Century African American Women Physicians.” Dr. Sias is a professor of Rhetoric and Writing Studies at California State University, Fresno.

Professor Candace Epps-Robertson, who was the first Jonathan M. Hess Term Professor, organized the event. Jonathan M. Hess was a professor at UNC, chair of the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures at UNC, and co-chair of the Carolina-Duke Graduate Program in German Studies. The Hess professorship is given to a pre-tenured assistant professor in the fine arts and humanities who honors Hess’s legacy of outstanding scholarship, excellence in teaching, and a commitment to the development of gender equality, diversity, and inclusiveness.

Prof. Epps-Robertson says of her choice to bring in Dr. Sias: “I am grateful for my previous term with the Hess Professorship because it gave me time and resources for my research and allowed me to bring in Dr. Reva E. Sias. This talk allowed the UNC community to connect with a scholar whose research and mentoring impact many. Dr. Sias’s work in archival studies, Afrafeminist rhetorics, and medical rhetorics represents the kind of research that helps us think carefully about connections between race, gender, and the history of medicine.”

During the lecture, Dr. Sias discussed her archival work on the first African American women physicians. She reported her research on Rebecca Davis Lee Crumpler, Rebecca J. Cole, and Susan Smith McKinney-Steward, all early African American women physicians. She shared various archival materials she has found, including Crumpler’s personal journal and articles written by Cole and McKinney. Dr. Sias’s work on these materials provides insight into how race and gender intersect in the rhetorics of medicine.

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