New Bioethics Center Aims to Impact Medical Policy

Annette Ritzko, Editor-in-Chief

The recent “Deadly Medicine” speaker series sparked the creation of the new Center for Human Dignity in Bioethics, Medicine and Health.

Dr. Stacy Gallin, the Director of the Center for Human Dignity in Bioethics, Medicine and Health, said the Center’s aim is to raise awareness for the importance of the concept of human dignity for current medical practices and healthcare policy.

Dr. Amanda Caleb, organizer of the Deadly medicine series, got the idea for the Center as a result of her work on the series.

“She worked with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and myself, and was able to bring the deadly medicine ‘Creating the Master Race’ traveling exhibit here; she did a tremendous job,” said Gallin. “So we had started working together during that. It was then that I realized with the Medical Health and Humanities program here and the work that Dr. Caleb was doing that this just seemed like a really great place to do start a center.”

Gallin and Caleb spent several months trying to figure out the best way to make the Center happen. Their goal was to create it for all of the university family, including students, faculty, staff, administrators and community members, to have a stake in and to make their own, said Gallin.

Gallin hopes her background in running a nonprofit organization, the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust, will help her run programs for the center smoothly.

“I view my role as a director as the person who combines everybody’s opinions, information and vision and my own experience of running a similar nonprofit organization to create something here that will really set Misericordia up to be a leader in the field. And hopefully other universities and organizations will follow suit, because the idea is that if we all work together, we can make the world a better place,” said Gallin.

Gallin said the Center has  created an advisory board, which consists of administrators, faculty and students. The board has met a few times to determine short and long term goals.

“One idea that we are working is an internship for the spring semester so that we can have students begin to actively get involved in the work that we are doing. We are also looking into creating a speaker series where we would bring in, similar to what we did with the ‘Deadly Medicine’ exhibit, various people, whether they are from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum or the local community, to come in to bridge the gap between the medical community in this area and the students,” said Gallin.

Another idea is to do a round in a local hospital or medical center where people could talk about the importance of human dignity and bioethics health.

“Other things we are discussing is how we can work this into various academic courses that are already existing on campus. Rather than reinventing the wheel, I think we have some wonderful classes here that are already running,” said Gallin. “So we are trying to find a way to integrate the work of this center into these courses and vice versa.”

Gallin said  a larger program involving faculty and students is in the works for late January or early February, but she she did not want to offer details until they are finalized.

Gallin stressed that her primary goal is to make sure the entire community has a say in the center, because if it is going to be successful, it must be important to everyone,” said Gallin.

Gallin said her work has take her to many  universities and colleges, but she was struck by the quality of Misericordia students.

“They are just very interested and proactive. I am very big on the concept of multipliers. In order to affect real change, we need to create multipliers that are going to go out and do wonderful things and the best way to create those multipliers is here, in a community like this, where the students are already engaged and coming with a set of values and very involved in making the community better,” said Gallin.

One of a few students who approached Gallin prior to the opening of the Center was senior English major Laura Baut.

“I was actually at the Eva Kor lecture and Dr. Gallin mentioned that she was going to be starting up a project called the center for bioethics on campus and I was really excited about that,” said Baut. “I’m very interested in healthcare in general but also about learning more about patient care and patient rights and the idea of using our knowledge from the past to progress healthcare.”

Gallin believes the Center will offer a unique look at bioethics and address a neglected area of study.

“People tend to be unaware of how vast [the Holocaust] was, they generally think it was just medical experimentation, but when you look back it was very systematic and it was engrained in all of healthcare. There was politicization of medicine, and if you look back at what happened then and the concepts of eugenics, beginning and end of life care and human rights in terms of medical experimentation and to the things that are happening now, you will see there is a very strong link. So I think this a different angle I would argue that is not being studied enough,” said Gallin.