University of Minnesota Alumni Association


What Gives You Hope?

From the Spring 2018 Issue of Minnesota Alumni


Steven Miles (M.D. ’76) has worked hard to put the spotlight on doctors who participate in torture. Miles, professor emeritus of medicine and bioethics at the U and past president of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities, has published four books and hundreds of articles on medical ethics, human rights, tropical medicine, and end-of-life care. In particular, his book Oath Betrayed: America’s Torture Doctors analyzed how military medicine has been misused in the war on terror. He also runs the Doctors Who Torture Accountability Project.

What are you working on now?
I am working on a book that is a comprehensive history of the effort to hold physicians accountable for crimes against humanity. It will be published in Spanish and English in late 2018. My coauthor is Gabriela Arguedas Ramírez, a professor at the University of Costa Rica.

What gives you hope?
Torture has dramatically decreased in the last 150 years. New forms of communication have increased transparency of rightsabusing governments, leading to more effective forms of accountability. Cynicism is the privilege of those who believe they will always be safe and comfortable.


Roy G. Guzmán is a celebrated poet, born in Honduras, and a Ph.D. student in the U’s department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature. After the 2016 shooting at an Orlando nightclub that left 50 people dead, he and fellow U student and poet D. Allen created a chapbook of Guzmán’s poem, “Restored Mural for Orlando.” Sale of the chapbook raised money for victims and their families.

What are you working on now?
Presidential elections in Honduras occurred on November 26, with potential voter fraud alleged throughout the country. As the opposition, including my family, took to the streets to demand justice, I received the cash advance for my first poetry collection scheduled for publication by Graywolf Press in spring 2020. Social media users in Honduras shared images and videos of the struggle: military forces shooting at innocent people, human bodies lying on the ground, and challenger Salvador Nasralla speaking to the masses via Facebook Live, decrying the tear gassing of his supporters. To support their cause, I donated my cash advance to organizations in Honduras fighting for a better quality of life for women, children, and the LGBT community.

What gives you hope?
My 2016 collaboration with Centro Campesino in Owatonna, exploring challenges Latinx residents face in rural Minnesota, led me to pursue a Ph.D. in cultural studies and comparative literature at the U. One aspect that gives me hope is the work I continue to do with marginalized writers from all over the world, in person and online. These past few years my definition of human rights has altered radically. I now hold, for instance, that by arguing in favor of a kind of citizenship, or for how a person’s rights can be concretely and thoroughly defined at all, we miss the mark. Anyone collected by a fixed notion of human rights has been traditionally othered and subclassed. I hope I continue to grow in Minnesota, as I fight for these causes.


As director of the U’s Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice, professor Samuel L. Myers Jr. studies the role economics can play in solving problems facing minority groups. A pioneering researcher with a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he has analyzed racial disparities in crime, detected illegal discrimination in credit markets, assessed the impacts of welfare on family stability, and evaluated the effectiveness of government programs in reducing poverty. He has worked with government bodies, including the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Federal Trade Commission. Myers, who is deaf, also served as a Fulbright Fellow in China, where he examined the intersections between race, disabilities, and income.

What are you working on now?
I continue to work on disability policies in China and how they compare to those in the United States. I’m beginning to look at disability policy in India. The big question is whether there is a hidden relationship between access to disability interventions and racial or ethnic or caste identity. The anecdotes are widespread, but it’s hard to test these hypotheses directly using conventional data because minorities are, inexplicably, underreported in disability data.

What gives you hope?
Some of the biggest advocates for people with disabilities are people from racial and ethnic minority groups. The marginalization that members of these groups experience sensitizes them to the problems confronting people with disabilities. This gives me hope.


Marci Bowers (M.D. ’86) has been called the “rock star” of gender affirmation surgery. Bowers, who herself underwent the surgery 20 years ago, specializes in obstetrics, gynecology, and plastic surgery at Mills- Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame, California. She has performed more than 1,500 gender affirmation operations. In addition, she performs clitoral restoration surgery on women in Africa to reverse genital mutilation. Last summer, she traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, with a suitcase full of sutures and operated on 44 women. She also trained local plastic surgeons in the procedure.

What are you working on now?
I am funding the first comprehensive transgender surgical fellowship in the world at Mount Sinai Beth Israel teaching hospital in New York, as well as working on the faculty to further options and improve patient care for transgender people. I am beginning work in Colorado to initiate a gender services program and planning another at the University of Toronto. We are planning our next mission to Africa in May. We hope to visit Tanzania. We continue to work with various global nongovernment organizations in hopes of ending female genital mutilation.

What gives you hope?
For me, where there is diversity, there is hope. The more we teach, touch, interact, help, mix, and love one another, the smaller and closer the world gets.

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