The State of the Institute

October 30, 2017

As we enter a new academic year, and now that I have completed my first year as the Andreas C. Dracopoulos Director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, I want to take the opportunity to reflect on our accomplishments over the past twelve months and look forward to the time ahead. During the last year, we partnered with our volunteer and university leadership to solidify goals, needs, and strategies as we plan for the coming years. More than ever, our work in bioethics is critical for clarifying the difficult ethics questions faced in biomedicine, from the bedside to the most pressing population and global health issues of the day.

 

At my installation last spring, I shared that I was committed to extending what we do in bioethics to a larger public audience. Last October, I was fortunate to be invited to talk about the ethics of genetic technologies at the 2017 TedXMidAtlantic conference in Washington, D.C. I’ve also become a regular guest on WYPR’s Midday with Tom Hall (Baltimore’s NPR affiliate). This public forum allows me to connect with listeners on relevant bioethics issues currently in the public eye. These engagements—and there are more to come—as well as the numerous public appearances of my colleagues, have allowed the Institute to address new audiences, opportunities, and commitments by building significant relationships with other institutions and organizations. This reminds us that the Berman Institute, in addition to being an organization and physical home for us, is crucially a community of scholars taking on the big and important issues of our time in healthcare, public health, and science. Our success depends on the reputation for excellence that we have developed, a testament to our faculty who truly represent the best in our field.

 

Many of our faculty, researchers, and clinicians serve in leadership and advisory roles across Johns Hopkins as well as throughout broader academic and bioethics networks, nationally and internationally. In addition to Hopkins hospital ethics committees and Institutional Review Boards, our faculty have furthered our mission and vision in roles including co-editor of the Global Nutrition Report, Chief Medical Officer for the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, Vice Chair for the Maryland Stem Cell Research Commission, Chair of the Board on Health Sciences Policy of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and by partnering with the National Academies of Sciences’ Science and Entertainment Exchange which connects directors, producers, and screenwriters to scientists and researchers.

 

The Berman Institute engages the community while bridging the conceptual and practical aspects of bioethics through continued outreach and education. In January, the Berman Institute led the University-wide inaugural Exploration of Practical Ethics Symposium, which highlighted the results of nine innovative and diverse projects that apply an ethical framework to everyday life funded by a combination of philanthropy and university investment. Over two days in March, the Berman Institute hosted the Robert H. Levi Leadership Symposium “Navigating the Ethical Tensions in Patient’s Requests for Innovative Therapies.” The public forum of the Levi Symposium framed the ethical questions that arise in a particular application of medical intervention for a fetus in utero. In response to proposed changes in immigration policy, the Institute co-hosted a symposium, “The Executive Order on Refugees: An Emerging Public Health Crisis”, to consider the ethics issues emerging as the health of refugees and displaced people are increasingly threatened.

 

Similarly, we maintain strong partnerships across the University and Johns Hopkins Medicine through a range of training and professional development activities. Last year, we hosted over thirty lectures through our Ethics for Lunch program and the biweekly Berman Institute Seminar Series. These programs are widely attended by medical and hospital staff, trainees, and students from across the East Baltimore campus. Other community education opportunities included the annual Hutzler-Rives Memorial Lectures, the Shallenberger Lecture, and the David Barap Brin Lecture in Medical Ethics.

 

This year, the Berman Institute celebrated the milestone of the graduation of our first Master of Bioethics cohort. This innovative, interdisciplinary, and cross-divisional program has quickly become one of the best of its kind in the country, illustrated by their immediate success in choosing careers in the field. We are honored to have them join the ranks of our alumni along with those who received their doctoral training in Bioethics and Health Policy. Furthermore, we continued to grow our Hecht-Levi Fellowship program through the admission of seven new post-doctoral fellows. The Berman Institute is proud of the scholarship and leadership of our students, fellows, and future colleagues.

 

We will use this momentum to continue to elevate that Berman Institute in the year ahead. We have set priorities and strategy for this year and the future. We are committed to growing our facilities to provide the very best education, training, and scholarship opportunities to our students, faculty, and the broader community. We aim to enhance and improve our communication with you while simplifying access to the leading-edge work that we do. Now more than ever our work needs to be accessible to groups that include but extend beyond our academic peers—to professionals, policy makers, those leading non-governmental organizations, those building and shaping businesses, and to the public. Engagement continues to be a Berman Institute priority.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jeffrey P. Kahn, PhD, MPH

Andreas C. Dracopoulos Director

Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics

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