The Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics has marked a milestone in its history, and in the field of bioethics, with a ceremony installing Ruth R. Faden as the inaugural Andreas C. Dracopoulos Director of the Berman Institute.

Johns Hopkins University President Ronald Daniels spoke, acknowledging the groundbreaking achievement of an endowed directorship for a bioethics institute, the first such position in the world for the young, interdisciplinary field of scholarship.

The historic directorship is made possible by a generous gift from Mr. Dracopoulos, the Berman Institute Advisory Board member and university trustee for whom it is named.  Dracopoulos also spoke at the ceremony, recounting his first meeting with a Berman Institute faculty member fifteen years ago, ophthalmologist Daniel Finkelstein, discussing “bedside manners” and the importance of treating the whole person. Finkelstein introduced Dracopoulos to Dr. Faden, the institute’s founding director, and soon joined the board.

“Dr. Faden has spent her entire career passionately committed to dealing with ethical challenges in the biomedical science field and in women’s health,” Dracopoulos said. “I am honored to have been a member of the National Advisory Board of the Berman Institute for almost 15 years now, honored to count everyone at the Institute as a friend, very grateful to have been blessed in my own personal life to be able to express my gratitude with this personal contribution which is nothing more than a simple acknowledgment of how far Ruth has taken the Institute and how promising its future is both within the Hopkins family and within society at large.”

In a surprising twist during the ceremony, Berman Institute Advisory Board Chair Alex Levi announced that he would not be introducing Faden – her husband and fellow bioethicist Tom Beauchamp would do the honors.  In a touching speech he described the first time he met Faden at Georgetown University, “in the very early days of bioethics.”

“Ruth exhibited at age 26, and has throughout her career exhibited, a striking ability —and I mean that, a really striking ability—to understand the contributions that derive from many fields of knowledge, to learn from the best minds in those fields, and to integrate and extend what she has learned, turning it into fresh and original work at the frontiers of bioethics. In this kind of interdisciplinary work, she surpasses anyone I have personally ever encountered,” Beauchamp shared with the audience.

In her remarks, Faden also began with history, recalling her early years at Hopkins when the idea of a bioethics institute with an endowed directorship “was not even a gleam in the eye.” Faden put the directorship in context, from those early days of grassroots, informal faculty lunch gatherings to the bright future she sees for the Berman Institute:

“Andreas’ remarkable gift will allow us to establish new big dreams and new big hopes for the next chapter in the Berman Institute’s history.  I am convinced that, more than ever, ethics is absolutely central to many of the great challenges facing humanity, now and in the future.  These challenges do not fall neatly in one bin of the academy or the other, and so frequently these challenges are completely interdependent.  Health, water, food, energy—it will be impossible to solve one in isolation from the other.”

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Leah Ramsay

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