Dr. Sandro Galea

Dean, Boston University School of Public Health

Sandro Galea, a physician, epidemiologist, and author, is dean and Robert A. Knox Professor at Boston University School of Public Health. He previously held academic and leadership positions at Columbia University, the University of Michigan, and the New York Academy of Medicine. He has published more than 800 scientific journal articles, 50 chapters, and 13 books, and his research has been featured extensively in current periodicals and newspapers. His latest book, “Well: What we need to talk about when we talk about health”, will be published by Oxford University Press in 2019. Arianna Huffington has called it “A deeply affecting work from one of the important and innovative voices in American health and medicine”.

Discussion Content

“The Healthiest Goldfish”

Brief Intro:

“The Healthiest Goldfish” is a sermon I was invited to give at First Parish in Brookline, a Unitarian Universalist congregation, in December 2016. In the sermon, I tell the story of Blind Willie Johnson, a blues singer who died in 1945. While his cause of death was officially malaria, he actually died from the effects of racism and poverty, which created the conditions for his disease. Through his story, I argue that we cannot be healthy as a society until we have addressed the systemic racism that consigns so many people, like Blind Willie Johnson, to lives of poor health.


Sandro’s Discussion Questions (PDF for Print)

    1. What are some of the ways racism affects health?
    2. It is easy to think our health is just the sum of the choices we make—choices like what we eat, and how much exercise we get. But health actually comes from the forces that shape our lives every day, forces like racism. What are some of the other forces that shape health?
    3. Imagine a world where Blind Willie Johnson had lived. What would that world look like?