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Speaker: Amy Brown, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Bioethics and Humanities, SUNY Upstate Medical University (our 2017 visiting Andrew Markus Scholar)

Abstract: Bioethics education is an essential component of health professions training, and the principle of justice is fundamental to both clinical and research ethics. Nascent healthcare providers are taught that they have a moral obligation to provide optimal care to all patients, regardless of individual, sociocultural and economic characteristics. Increasingly, trainees in healthcare are taught that justice cannot be achieved simply by treating all patients equally, but that it requires treating patients as individuals in the context of their culture, community, and socioeconomic resources, and that this, in turn, requires special and sometimes greater efforts on the part of some patients than others. This is one version of equity in healthcare. However, students do not enter health professions training as blank slates. Their personal identities and sense of a moral self exist, though still formative, especially for younger trainees. There is an important intuitive distinction between social justice and fairness, and some programs and policies motivated by social justice (e.g., affirmative action) are attempts to correct previous unfairness to one group via actions that now appear unfair to another. The question then arises: what happens when students’ pre-existing values and beliefs, shaped by their lived experience, conflicts with contemporary notions of what a “good physician” or “good nurse” is and does?

In this talk, I will explore the applications of moral foundation theory to bioethics education and to healthcare practice and discuss some of the challenges of teaching social justice as a part of medical education in the context of the current political climate in the United States.

Bookings: If you would like to come to this seminar, please email