Behind BFHSS: Insight from an Undergraduate Research Assistant

In high school, I wrote essays describing how the women in King Lear defied gender stereotypes while eagerly learning about intersectional feminism. I was always interested in analyzing gender inequalities, but my predominantly white upbringing shielded me from integrating this curiosity with an understanding of systems of injustice and power. 

Coming to Wellesley College sparked my passion for Women and Gender Studies as a tool to analyze hegemonic power structures, as well as for Biochemistry and biomedicine. Last semester, my class entitled The Body Across Science, Medicine, and Public Health taught by professor Natali Valdez, prompted me to realize that my research interests lie at the intersection of biochemistry and public health—in the intersectional area of feminist science, health, and technology studies. Throughout that class, I became fascinated by the construction of healthy bodies and the impact of environmental racism on healthcare access, issues, and treatment. 

As a Biochemistry major and pre-medical student, my work with Dr. Bailey and Black Feminist Health Science Studies (BFHSS) focuses on public health and efforts to make medicine more intersectional. Dr. Bailey’s research with “misogynoir” and her creation of BFHSS aligns with my goal of investigating how healthcare and medicine are not value-neutral but rooted in structures of racism, sexism, and classism. I firmly believe in egalitarian treatment and want to become a doctor as a means of social justice activism to tackle structural determinants of health. 

My work with BFHSS adding content to the website and promoting the upcoming March symposium on social media thus far has been transformative, enlightening, and inspiring. Reading collective members’ scholarly articles and relevant literature has widened my perspective in numerous ways. For example, in an article by Dr. Angel Miles, I learned how African American women with disabilities have overlapping identities that render them “inferior” by healthcare systems and this perception often conflicts with racial stereotypes of Black “caregivers.” Another article by Dr. Nicole Charles showcased how HPV vaccine suspicions in Barbados are rooted in white colonial biopolitics where Black bodies continue to be controlled and manipulated in public health contemporarily. Additionally, my fruitful discussions with Dr. Bailey have also encouraged me to think deeply and dynamically about how BFHSS will work to tangibly impact practices of medicine in the future. 

In sum, I am excited to be a part of Black Feminist Health Science Studies and for this opportunity to grow as a researcher, scholar, and thinker. I strive to cultivate enthusiasm, interest, and attention towards BFHSS as an organization, and I hope that you will love this important field as much as I do. 

Alex Wheeler 

Wellesley College ‘23

Biochemistry | Women and Gender Studies

Welcome to the Black Feminist Health Science Studies Collective

A picture of Fannie Lou Hamer next to her quote, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

…if Black women as a whole were healthy, it would mean that many of the barriers to quality health care would necessarily be removed, creating a more ethical and just health culture for everyone.

Articulating Black Feminist Health Science Studies by Moya Bailey and Whitney Peoples

When I was writing my dissertation, I started thinking about the way that science and medicine represented Black women. Through analyzing the sociocultural aspects of medical education after the release of the influential Flexner Report in 1910 that standardized the study of medicine in North America, I built a foundation for understanding how representations shape medical students understandings of potential patients and themselves. An ideal student and patient emerged that reinforce one another at the expense of bodily diversity among patients and students, exacerbating care disparities through what Patricia Hill Collins calls “controlling images.” This project led to connecting with Dr. Whitney Peoples around questions of media and medicine as examined through a Black Feminist lens and thus, the Black Feminist Health Science Studies Collective was born.


Moya Bailey