Larider Ruffin

We spoke with Larider Ruffin, assistant professor of Nursing, about Black health and wellness, which is the theme for Black History Month (2022). 

Larider Ruffin

Being a black man in health care, he has seen how a history of social injustice has led African Americans to lose trust in the health care system, putting Black and brown people at risk during the pandemic. Trends have shown that African Americans have been less likely to get vaccinated than other racial and ethnic groups.

“The vaccine is here to protect you and help us get to a point close to the way things used to be. We need people to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their loved ones,” Ruffin said. 

He brought up the 1930s Tuskegee Experiment, a long-term syphilis study, as an example of where the mistrust stems from.

Researchers wanted to document the progression of untreated syphilis in black males. When the penicillin treatment became available about 10 years into the study, participants were not treated, which allowed researchers to study the entire progression of the disease as participants, who never gave informed consent, died from syphilis. The experiment later raised questions about ethics, racism in health care research and consent.   

Ruffin noted a recent study that found that 97 percent of the nursing workforce believes that racism exists in their field.

“We need to get to a point where people trust the system,” he said. 

Ruffin is a Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist and created a Smoking & Vaping Cessation program. He recently went to Washington, D.C. to advocate for legislation that would ban menthol cigarettes to save more lives. Ads for these addictive cigarettes that use menthol to numb the throat and reduce coughing target people of color.   

Ruffin’s wish is for people to see a primary care doctor annually and to get health screenings that can detect potential problems early.

“Don’t wait until you’re really sick. Be pro-active. Prevention is the goal,” he said.

This Voice was originally published in 2022. At the time of publication, and currently, Ruffin was an assistant professor of Nursing.