Dr. Rebecca Weintraub Brendel to Lead Development of New HMS Master’s Program in Bioethics

Rebecca Weintraub Brendel, MD, JD
Rebecca Weintraub Brendel, MD, JD

The HMS Center for Bioethics is pleased to announce that effective September 1, 2014, Rebecca Weintraub Brendel, M.D., J.D. will be joining the Center to lead the development of a new Master’s Program in Bioethics. Dr. Brendel is HMS Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Director of Law and Ethics at the MGH Center for Law Brain and Behavior.  She will be stepping down as Clinical Director of the Home Base Program — a collaboration of the Red Sox Foundation and MGH — in order to develop and then lead the new Master’s Program in Bioethics at HMS, with a planned launch for the first entering class in 2015. Dr. Brendel earned a degree in philosophy with distinction from Yale University, and then received her M.D. and J.D., both with honors, at the University of Chicago.  She trained in both psychiatry and forensic psychiatry at MGH, and she also completed the faculty fellowship in ethics at Harvard’s Safra Center for Ethics and the Professions.

Robert Truog, M.D., Director of the Center for Bioethics, noted that the search committee was pleased to have so many highly qualified applicants. “From a very strong field, Becca stood out as someone who is not only a scholar in the field and an outstanding teacher, but also a proven program builder who will see the final approval process for the new degree through to completion and then build and lead a fantastic program.”  The new program will be designed to attract professionals with careers in other primary disciplines — medical or nursing practice, social work, law, theology, anthropology, sociology, biotech, etc. — and provide both a rigorous foundation in bioethics as well as the tools and opportunity to pursue an in-depth project relevant to their own career goals. 

The new program will include core courses covering key topics and major theories in bioethics, a required scholarly project or externship, and a number of electives that students will use either to gain breadth across many areas or to cluster in one area of concentration. Christine Mitchell, RN, MS., MTS, Executive Director of the Center, explained that any number of concentrations or “tracks” may be developed for students, given the remarkable number of potentially relevant courses across Harvard University. And she highlighted that “we are already planning the first of these, a Health Law and Policy track in collaboration with the Petrie-Flom Center at Harvard Law School, which we believe will be unique in the nation for a medical and law school to offer such a combined educational opportunity at the graduate level."

“Becca is not only an interdisciplinary scholar and collegial leader, but also an award-winning teacher,” added Edward Hundert, M.D., Associate Director of the Center for Bioethics who chaired the search committee, “and she will be a tremendous asset as a colleague within the Center as we expand our programs and our faculty over the years ahead." For her part, Dr. Brendel summed it up: “I am thrilled to have this opportunity to join with such wonderful colleagues to build a new degree program that will contribute so much to so many people over the years to advance both their careers and the field of bioethics itself — I look forward to making this a highly collaborative and interdisciplinary degree that will serve an important and growing need for bioethics education and training."