Future Mastery - HMS Launches Bioethics Masters Program

HMS launches new degree to educate tomorrow’s biomedical ethicists
Rebecca Weintraub Brendel, MD, JD
Rebecca Weintraub Brendel, MD, JD, director of the Master of Bioethics degree program at Harvard Medical School

By Jake Miller

“Almost every day in the news there are stories about situations that could use thoughtful attention from skilled bioethicists,” said Rebecca Weintraub Brendel, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital and director of the Master in Bioethics program. “As the pace of change continues to accelerate, this need will become even more pressing.”

The only constant in the world of biomedicine is change.

New discoveries in neuroscience revolutionize our understanding of consciousness. Advances in genetics may one day lead to the creation of entirely new forms of life.  Innovations in reproductive technology may soon enable parents to completely change the ways the next generation is conceived.

At the same time, political and economic forces, along with the rapidly aging global population, are reshaping the way health care is delivered and paid for. The democratization of digital technology also means that the power of science and medicine will increasingly be in the hands of lay people, not just clinicians.

These changes don’t just matter in the halls of academia, say the leaders of the new Center for Bioethics at Harvard Medical School. They also have broad implications that will shape society in the coming years.

A new Master in Bioethics program is designed to help prepare clinicians, researchers, policy advocates and others who are concerned with these issues. The program is intended to help experts in science and policy communicate with one another and translate philosophically and legally sound perspectives on innovations in biomedicine into policy.

The new degree program, which will launch in August, 2015, is offered through the Center for Bioethics at Harvard Medical School, combining resources from the Center, Harvard teaching hospitals and departments across the University. It is currently accepting applicants on a rolling basis.

The program is designed for many different professionals who could benefit from enhancing their expertise in bioethics, whether they are clinicians from medicine, nursing or social work, hospital clergy, institutional review board members, researchers in industry, lawyers, or policy makers, the organizers of the program said. 

“One of the great hopes for this program is that it will build community among all these people, who can not only learn from our world class faculty, but equally learn from one another,” said Ed Hundert, Daniel D. Federman, M.D. Professor in Residence of Global Health and Social Medicine and Medical Education, HMS dean for medical education, and associate director of the Center for Bioethics.  

Interested applicants, including mid-career professionals, graduate students looking to enhance their training from a related field and recent graduates who desire a postbaccalaureate education are encouraged to apply.