Aerial view of campus with Williamsport, the Susquehanna River and Bald Eagle Mountain as a backdrop

Writer to address incarcerated women battling addition

Writer to address incarcerated women battling addition

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Kimberly Sue, M.D., Ph.D., Medical Director of the Harm Reduction Coalition and author of “Getting Wrecked: Women, Incarceration and the Opioid Crisis,” will address the Lycoming College community on the subject of her research. Her talk is slated for March 26 at 5:30 p.m., in Heim G-11 on the Lycoming College campus. The event is free and open to the public.

“Getting Wrecked” provides a rich ethnographic account of women battling addiction as they cycle through jail, prison, and community treatment programs in Massachusetts. As incarceration has become a predominant American social policy for managing the problem of drug use, including the opioid epidemic, this book examines how prisons and jails have attempted concurrent programs of punishment and treatment to deal with inmates struggling with a diagnosis of substance use disorder. An addiction physician and medical anthropologist, Sue powerfully illustrates the impacts of incarceration on women’s lives as they seek well-being and better health while confronting lives marked by structural violence, gender inequity, and ongoing trauma. Prior to her lecture at Lycoming College, Sue will speak to women incarcerated at SCI-Muncy about her work.

A graduate of Harvard Medical School’s social science M.D.-Ph.D. track, Sue completed her doctoral work in sociocultural anthropology where she studied the intersection of U.S. prison systems, addiction policy, mental health, and drug treatment. She completed her medical training at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital in internal medicine-primary care, with a clinical focus on substance use disorders and addiction medicine. She currently sees patients in syringe service programs, providing low threshold buprenorphine treatment for opioid use disorder. Her doctoral research at Harvard, coupled with her field experience, laid the basis for her book, “Getting Wrecked: Women, Incarceration and the American Opioid Crisis,” published by University of California Press in September 2019.

Sue’s areas of expertise include the intersections of anthropology and clinical medicine, medicine and social justice, and health advocacy for and in solidarity with structurally vulnerable communities. Her work draws attention to how structural violence, oppression and stigma operate in medicine and healthcare settings and particularly how they can harm or damage the health and well-being of people who use drugs. She believes in centering the expertise and knowledge of people who use drugs, engage in sex work and experience stigma in many other ways. She also has experience in global public health research and implementation in health care delivery and HIV and reproductive health in Tanzania and South Africa.

“The intersectionality of Dr. Sue’s perspective as an anthropologist and a physician allows for a more holistic approach to understanding substance abuse. In addition to outlining the harms caused by incarceration, particularly for women, her expertise in addiction provides insight on how to better treat individuals who are struggling with substance abuse,” said Kerry Richmond, associate professor of criminal justice and chair of the department. “In a region that has been significantly impacted by the opioid epidemic, Dr. Sue’s talk is very timely.” 

The lecture is co-sponsored by Lycoming College’s Departments of Anthropology-Sociology, Criminal Justice-Criminology and Psychology.