As science and technology continue their quest to improve the health of mankind, the application of ethics in healthcare has become more crucial than ever before. I have had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Global Bioethics Initiative summer school in Manhattan, New York, on a partial scholarship. The course deeply struck a chord with me since it was vigorously structured to address the various pertinent topics related to bioethics today, such as those related to the use of reprogenetic technologies and organ transplantation. The faculty was tremendously qualified and encouraged an active discourse on the relevant topics.  I take away an extremely valuable and rewarding experience that motivated me to explore and introspect where we stand on the ethical dimension. I strongly recommend this course to healthcare students and professionals across all disciplines to enhance their understanding of this very pivotal area. Fatima Qadri, Researcher, Prince Naif Bin AbdulAziz Health Research Center, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, PhD Candidate, Sri Padmavati Mahila Visvavidyalayam, Tirupati, India

The first week of the GBI summer school was really as great as anticipated. They’ve put together an outstanding lineup of presenters of various expertise who have discussed some of the most important topics regarding bioethics. On the 12th of July, we attended a lecture under the title of “Genetically Designed Babies & Mitochondrial Disease” by Dr. Sheldon Krimsky. Dr. Sheldon’s lecture shed light on the ethical considerations regarding the most recent developed techniques in the gene modification field. He stated the main ethical arguments in favor and against gene editing in human embryos. It was really precious to listen to someone of his experience and knowledge giving his opinions on each of these arguments. This lecture in particular was very informative and enlightening as it allowed me to have a better understanding of the most important ethical aspects in the gene modification field.  Osama Nazzal, fifth year M.D. student, Arabian Gulf University, Bahrain

After spending just a week at the Global Bioethics Summer School, I have learned more about bioethics and medical practices than ever before. The lectures cover highly controversial topics, ranging from international organ trafficking and the flaws of the U.S. healthcare system to ethical implications of modern reproductive technologies. The lecturers, all renowned experts in their field, actively engage with the participants and encourage them to question the ethics and implications of each issue. Moreover, through my conversations with the other participants and interns, I have been able to explore controversial topics, especially during Shirin Karsan’s lecture on the role of religion and culture in medicine, more deeply than ever before. I was also able to witness the practical applications of science first-hand when we toured the New York Stem Cell Foundation. Seeing the technicians, machines, engineers, scientists, and administrators all contributing to science in their own way truly opened my eyes to the endless possibilities for careers in science. Regardless of how I choose to practice bioethics in the future, I know the lessons learned and connections made during this week will last my entire career. I am incredibly grateful to be a part of such a stimulating and ameliorating experience.  Gavin Ford, B.A. Cognitive Science and Science in Human Culture Candidate, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

After spending a week at Global Bioethics Initiative’s Summer School in Manhattan, I feel more confident dealing with controversial bioethical issues in healthcare. To be more specific, Professor Mirna Mohanraj’s “Hospital-Based Ethics and Affiliation” lecture impressed me most so far because we were trained to apply alternate ethical frameworks to real cases by voting in online polls. Professor Sheldom Krimsky’s lecture was also one of my favorites because it explored my field of interest regarding genetic engineering, Mitochondria Replacement Technique, and Crispr-Cas9. Furthermore, film screenings and visiting the New York Stem Cell Foundation and the Rogosin Institute contributed to a spherical cultivation of how we view Bioethics in real life! Last but not least, I would like to mention that the majority of the lectures made me question the role of “humanness” in medicine, which is under serious threat with all these advances in biotechnology. All in all, I definitely recommend this program to anyone who wants to have a serious engagement with the field of Bioethics and Health Policy. I can assure you it would be a one-of-a kind experience! Georgia Livieri, Ethics Consultant at Unisystems, Researcher for the Hellenic Institute on the United Nations Affairs, PhD Candidate in Bioethics and Health Policy at the University of Porto, Portugal, Faculty of Medicine and Philosophy at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece

Dr. Russell Woodruff’s lecture on Understanding Autonomy and Dependency in Aging enabled us to be aware of the different concepts of aging and realize that dependency should not solely be viewed as an impediment, but also as a means of enhancing or hindering our autonomy. In a way, whether we are incapacitated or not, we all depend on different people and things in our daily lives in order to do the things that we like. Dr. Woodruff’s vibrant and humorous personality was able to capture our full attention as he explained the differences between chronological, biological, and psychosocial aging and what each concept allows us to do as a society. For instance, chronological age, the time spent alive from birth, is most useful for implementing laws, while psychosocial age, how we interpret/respond to biological age changes over time, would be most useful for determining cultural differences among individuals. As Dr. Russell states in his presentation, they are “tools for making sense of the world. Concepts organize our experiences, and guide us in responding to the world.” I would agree that age is one of the many perceptions we categorize in our minds. Dr. Russell ended his lecture on an important point: We don’t have to be “old” in order to depend on people and/or things. Everyday many of us depend on a variety of things that positively or negatively affect our autonomy, such as our parents, academic institutions, commercial goods, public transportation…etc. Being dependent does not necessarily mean losing the independence we deeply value, but can serve as an advantage to doing the things we love.  Briana Santana, B.A. Neuroscience Candidate, Hunter College, New York, New York

After the first week at GBI’s summer school I have become more interested in the field of Bioethics, which I now consider to be an important course of study in a fast-paced society where new technologies, ideas, and concepts tend to threaten the boundaries of morality as we know it. On the first day of the program, we were introduced into the field of Ethics and Reprogenetic Technologies by Inmaculada de Melo Martin, Ph.D., a professor of Medical Ethics, specifically in Reproductive Medicine, at the Weill Cornell Medical School. The lecture explained the concept of IVF, a fertility treatment where a doctor will collect a woman’s eggs and fertilize them with sperm from the woman’s partner (or a donor) in the lab. We were also exposed to the risks of PGD (Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis), a technology that can identify genetic defects within the embryos and prevent hereditary diseases or disorders like Down Syndrome or deafness from being passed to the next generation. From a moral point of view, PGD is controversial because it raises deontological ethical concerns – it is wrong to choose traits of offspring no matter how well intentioned because human reproduction is a gift and any modification of the embryo turns the newborn into a “manufacture,” and thinking of genetic modification consequentially will create a society in which children are valued more for their genotype than for their inherent characteristics. One ethical question that is still buzzing in my head is how genetically modified babies will affect our social structure, one supposition being that it will increase the inequality between the people that can afford it and the others who cannot.  Bălălău Matei, High School Student at National College “Mihai Viteazul”, Bucharest, Romania

At GBI summer school 2019, I had the opportunity to learn valuable insights in the field of bioethics. Lecturers presented on a range of topics from hospital ethics, to reprogenetic ethics, to end of life care ethics. The lecturers were extremely knowledgeable and interesting, and we were able to engage in meaningful and intimate discussion. In addition, we had field trips to the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute, as well as the Rogosin Institute for Kidney Disease diagnosis and treatment. These field trips were incredibly interesting, and allowed for a glimpse into cutting edge research in biology and biotechnologies. The lectures were often thought provoking, leading me to question many of my preconceived notions of morality and ethics, not necessarily just in the field of medicine and biology. I recommend the Global Bioethics Initiative summer school to healthcare students and professionals who seek to enhance their understanding of this area of ethics and who wish to improve their personal practice. Andrew Kates, B.ASc. Candidate, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada

Friday morning, Dr. Barry Smith, neurosurgeon at Weill Cornell Medical Center and president of the Rogosin Institute, lectured on “Clinical Care and Research: Are There Global Bioethical Standards?”. Today, we treat health too scientifically, he says, but health includes social, emotional, and mental determinants. In 1948 WHO defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social. well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Health also should not be solely based on healthcare and treatments: a physician’s job is to treat a sick patient, but the bulk of maintaining health come from preventive measures and lifestyle factors. The lecture also included information on some history regarding treatment of chronic kidney disease in the U.S. which, following the poignant film Tales from the Organ Trade we watched a few days prior, became more eye opening to us. Following the informative lecture, Dr. Smith invited us to visit the Rogosin Institute, a Weill Cornell affiliated non-profit organization established in 1983 dedicated to researching, treating, and preventing kidney disease. While we were there, we saw the dialysis clinic and spoke to other health professionals who worked at the institute about their roles and beliefs during lunch. Again, at the clinic, Dr. Smith reiterated the current system for treating kidney disease and the role of the current government in supporting that sort of treatment—and seeing the patients who were there for treatment made his message for change all the more significant.  Laureen Chan, B.A. Biochemistry Candidate, Hunter College, New York, New York

The first week of the Global Bioethics Summer School was filled with thought provoking lectures and invaluable networking opportunities. As a participant of GBI Summer School, I was able to learn from esteemed professionals in an intimate setting. This not only allowed me to make extremely helpful connections but also gain access to the thoughts and research of extraordinary intellectuals I would otherwise not have had the opportunity to meet. I found the Shirin Karsan’s lecture discussing the intersection of medicine and religion particularly interesting. Growing up in a religious household while being a science student has presented internal conflicts over which doctrine to follow. Hearing about this dilemma from a researcher who specializes in this topic helped me work out some of my internal struggles while also learning about the medical dilemmas present in other religious communities. The lecture by Dr. Inmaculada opened my eyes to the world of reproductive ethics. Before summer school, I had not considered this avenue of bioethics, but after hearing about the various reprogenetic technologies and their implications, I have been inspired to look more deeply into this issue and possibly specialize in it in the future. In addition to being a summer school participant, my role as a GBI intern has provided me with a wealth of knowledge concerning the administrative skills that go into running such a comprehensive program. I am so appreciative for this opportunity to learn about controversial bioethical dilemmas while also figuring out ways to participate in the field. These lectures have been an eye opening experience, and I look forward for those in the week to come!  Hannah Tice, B.A. in Behavioral Neuroscience Candidate, Colgate University, Hamilton, New York

Last week, I attended the Global Bioethics Initiative Summer School hosted by Hunter College in Manhattan. This program included a mixture of lectures, field trips, and film screenings on a variety of topics prevalent in global bioethics today. I particularly enjoyed the lecture given by Dr. Bruce Gelb, a transplant surgeon at NYU Medical College, on the Ethics of Organ Transplantation. This talk gave participants an insight into the different types of organ transplants that are available and discussed the ethics of consent in relation to cadaveric donation. We also had the opportunity to watch Three Identical Strangers, a film I would recommend to all my peers. It examines a set of American triplets, born in 1961 and adopted as infants by separate families, unaware that each child had brothers. The separations were done as part of an undisclosed scientific “nature versus nurture” twin study to track the development of genetically identical siblings raised in differing circumstances. This raised questions surrounding research ethics and informed consent, showing that regulations must be placed to keep them within the boundaries of what is morally right.  Overall, this first week has been educational and informative. Áine Macdonald, English and European Law, Queen Mary University of London, London, U.K.

The first week of the GBI Manhattan Summer school was an outstanding experience for me. With lectures ranging from the ethics of reprogenetics to issues regarding organ transplantation, there was no shortage of interesting academic content being supplied throughout the week. The notable lecturers and their presentations, alongside the field trips, e.g. the New York Stem Cell Foundation and the nearby Rogosin Institute, provided an educational atmosphere conducive collaboration with other participants. The film screenings connected to the topics presented have given us a deeper understanding of specific issues related to global bioethics, human rights, and public policy. I look forward to the rest of the summer school and hope that it can be as well organized and exciting as the first week was.  Nicholas Murray, B.A.Sc. Applied Mathematics and Computer Engineering Candidate, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

My first week at the Global Bioethics Initiative Summer School exceeded my expectations. The notable lecturers and unique presentations allowed me to further explore my interest in global bioethics. Both the philosophical principles and ethical components integrated into the topic of bioethics sparked interactive discussions filled with diverse perspectives. “When We Cannot Cure: Thoughts on the Ultimate Challenge to the Bond of Patient with Doctor,” by Dr. Michael Berman, was one of my favorite presentations this past week. Dr. Berman’s lecture focussed on the relationship between a patient and their doctor while coping with loss and difficulty after losing a child. Dr. Berman expresses his grief by writing meaningful poems, which he shared with patients’ families. This is an example of one of the many ethical ways medical professionals can cope with patients’ losses.  I also enjoyed Dr. Inmaculada de Melo Martin’s presentation “Ethics and Reprogenetic Technologies,” which presented different technologies (IVF, PGD etc.) currently offered to patients. She further examined the impact of integrating these technologies into society by focussing on the ethics of choosing an embryo based on desired sex and disability. I thoroughly enjoyed this lecture because of the ethical component that is behind using such reprogenetic technologies. During the first week of the summer session, I was able to explore various ethical issues that impact our lives in one way or another.  Despina Tsiamtsiouris, Friends Academy Class of 2020, Locust Valley, New York

The Global Bioethics Initiative Summer School of 2019, held at Hunter College this year, has been an eye-opening experience. The lectures, using different angles of approach and of course coming from different fields of work, have incorporated bioethics into their work exquisitely. Because health care and ethics are so intertwined, I have found those lectures particularly helpful in understanding the role of ethics in patient care and in the hospital setting. Whether determining the ethicality of specific cases or understanding the ethics behind organ transplant, I have found all of these lectures extremely informative and applicable in my future career in medicine. The 2019 GBI Summer School has been a wonderful experience, and it included many takeaways which will help me in my studies and for years to come. A truly wonderful experience filled with knowledge, laughter and friendship. Thank you GBI! Artem Duda, B.A. Biochemistry Candidate, Hunter College, New York, New York

The 2019 Global Bioethics Initiative Summer School has been an incredible experience that has exposed me to a number of important bioethical issues. I have greatly enjoyed learning from medical professionals and accomplished academics in this field. This includes our field trips to the New York Stem Cell Foundation and the Rogosin Institute where I was able to see first-hand how people working in medicine are applying bioethics to their work. A highlight of the week was Shirin Karsan’s lecture, “Religious Traditions and Their Impact on Bioethics”, which addressed the role of religion in bioethics and public policy. Karsan shared her research on Emirati families and the influence of Islam on the use of Assisted Reproductive Technologies. Her research introduced me to a new dimension of healthcare treatment that I had not considered before. Our conversations about culture and religion and their relation to medicine were thoughtful and engaging. Additionally, I have enjoyed hearing from the outstanding participants who consistently add insightful comments and new perspectives to the conversation. I feel very fortunate to partake in such a thought-provoking program. Greatly looking forward to the next week. Emma Joseph, B.A. Political Science Candidate, Colgate University, Hamilton, New York 

This past week I had the opportunity to participate in Global Bioethics Initiative’s Summer School in N.Y.C. at Hunter College.It has been a wonderful experience to be able to gain a better understanding of global bioethics and its significance in the world of medicine. What makes the G.B.I. Summer School unique is that its students learn about the bioethical perspective from different notable faculty members, including Dr. Inmaculada de Melo-Martín who spoke on ethics and reprogenetic technologies, Dr. Michael Berman and his moving presentation on the role of humanism in medicine, and Dr. Russell Woodruff and his lecture on autonomy and dependency in aging. However, our learning is not solely limited to lectures. In fact, we expand our knowledge of bioethics through field trips, film screenings, and discussion amongst each other that enhance what we have learned thus far. I am grateful to say that this has been an unforgettable experience, and I am excited about the upcoming week of the GBI Summer School!  Erica Aguayza, B.A. English Candidate, Hunter College, New York, New York

Ethics is a field that continues to challenge our knowledge and interpretation of the past, present, and future. Through Global Bioethics Initiative, I had the opportunity to delve deeper into the current conversations surrounding ethical issues in healthcare and research. These topics included case studies of various real-life ethical dilemmas in patient care to panels on ethical responsibility in medical and research careers. The program commenced its first week with an insightful introduction to reprogenetic ethics from Dr. Immaculada Melo-Martin, an established ethicist from Weill Cornell Medical College. A recent wave of femtech has left our society with pressing concerns about proper ethical use of reproductive technologies to increase rates of successful pregnancies and enhance the health of future persons. I left the lecture with a better grasp on deontological arguments against certain technologies and how procreative beneficence affects both the parents and the future persons. I found myself revisiting my lecture notes a few days later on a field trip to the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF). Using stem cell therapies and research to challenge our current understanding of disease etiology and therapy, NYCSF is valued not only for their progressive approach to science but for their interdisciplinary efforts to be an ethically responsible company. Listening to a panel of established scientists, I was able to see how current institutions were approaching valid concerns about the use of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), often being approached with the similar arguments we were introduced to by Dr. Melo-Martin. With the first week of GBI wrapped up, I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues in our last week of activities and discussions.  Zarrin Tashnim, Researcher, Northwell Health Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, New York, New York

Field Trip to the New York Stem Cell Foundation

On Wednesday, July 10th, the Global Bioethics Initiative Summer School class visited the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF). Our visit comprised a lecture on stem cell research, a tour of the research facilities, and a career panel hosted by three NYSCF staff members. The lecture was given by David McKeon, NYSCF’s chief of staff. He began by describing the functions and uses of stem cells, explaining that pluripotent stem cells are valuable in the field of medicine and science because of their ability to be transformed into any cell type needed for medical treatment. He discussed the ethical issues that arise in these contexts, particularly surrounding the importance of informed consent when using embryos and adult human skin samples to make pluripotent stem cells. McKeon also gave an overview of the history of stem cell policy in the U.S., explaining how the controversial use of embryos has affected the government’s support and funding of stem cell research throughout multiple presidential administrations. This difficulty in obtaining government support was a driving force in the creation of NYSCF, which provided a safe haven for scientists to explore the potential of stem cells in medicine and medical treatments. The second part of our visit was a tour of NYSCF’s facilities. We got a close-up look at the many machines, robots, and facilities that are used to make, store and examine stem cells. Our tour guides explained that these robots enable the entire process within the laboratories to occur without human touch, helping to prevent contamination of samples. We also got the opportunity to observe the work of some of the engineers who help design and modify the lab equipment. The final part of our visit was a career panel hosted by three NYSCF staff members: Raeka Aiyar, the director of NYSCF’s Scientific Outreach Program, Lillian Mehran, the Clinical Research Manager, and Brigham Hartley, a scientist at NYSCF. They each gave us an overview of how they got their start in their careers and with NYSCF, provoking interesting discussion about the various possible routes to success within the biomedical research industry. Global Bioethics Initiative is incredibly grateful to NYSCF for giving us the opportunity to learn about the science and ethics of stem cell research, as well as for taking the time to talk to us about possible career paths and future areas of importance. We hope to continue our relationship with NYSCF into the coming years and look forward to future collaborations between GBI and NYSCF.  Camille Stone, B.A. International Relations and Human Rights Candidate, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

On Wednesday, July 10th, the Global Bioethics Initiative Summer School went on a field trip to the New York Stem Cell Foundation, also known as NYSCF. On the field trip, we were first given a brief introduction to the importance of stem cells and the research that is happening now relating to stem cells, including the hope for personalized medicine in the near future. Afterward, we then were taken on a tour of the foundation where we got the chance to look at the technologies first hand, which includes a system that is run almost entirely by artificial intelligence in order to make the process of converting blood and skin cells into stem cells as efficient as possible. Finally, we closed the field trip with a career panel in which we spoke to people with very different jobs and backgrounds yet they all work at NYSCF. We also discussed CRISPR and the ethical implications surrounding stem cells and the availability of personalized medicine. As a high school student, I feel extremely fortunate to be able to have exposure to such cutting-edge research firsthand at such a young age. This trip educated me on both how stem cells are created and how this scientific innovation can make great impacts on healthcare in the future. Zoe Ralph, High School Student at Kent Place School, Summit, New Jersey

Field Trip to The Rogosin Institute

 “What does it mean to be Human?”  – This is how Dr. Barry Smith- Professor of Clinical Surgery and Attending Physician started his lecture on the 5th day of our Global Bioethics Initiative Program, regarding the existence of global bioethical standards. 

President of Rogosin Institute-an independent, non-profit (501c3) clinical and research institute affiliated with New York Presbyterian Hospital, funded by Dr. Albert L.Rubin on 1956, Dr. Smith works closely and tirelessly with his team to provide the best possible care for their 1600 patients in 8 dialysis centers, by focusing on Kidney Disease, Chronic Kidney Care, and Kidney Transplant Program. He didn’t start with a definition of these standards, nor the history of the Institute. but with one of the most important yet not talked about questions. What makes us human? It is our understanding of the answer that derives the bioethical principles that we must apply in order to transform our healthcare system. 

Humans are not just biological “machines” that are vulnerable to disease; We have cognitive function, abstract thinking, emotions, creativity and rich spiritual worlds. Yet, our current healthcare system puts the focus on our disease, instead of focusing in our wellness and according to Dr. Smith this happens because we are being faced with a global system failure. A failure directly connected to unsustainable costs,  lack of a universal coverage for everyone, inequality in systems, seeing patients not as people but merely as subjects to the disease and a lack of initiative from the patients to take ownership of their health and care about themselves starting with their diet. Recognizing the failure of our current model, we can take action and work on creating a new model focused on wellness and quality of life, which starts with the patient who is responsible for their good nutrition and physical exercise. Then we can add to this, early prevention, screening, compassionate care, empathy, professionalism, behavioral health programs, and use of EHR and artificial intelligence to make for an easier coordination of our patient’s plan of care. Dr. Smith explained to us in detail the above mentioned problems that we are facing in our old model and how to give them solutions through the new model, but what is very important in the wellness model, is the patient being at the center of it, taking the power to make the best choices and decisions for themselves by being equipped with the right tools from their doctors, nurses, social workers, society, public health offices, health administration, clinical research and policymakers/government. “Working to achieve better health is a movement. And this is a movement of, by and for the patients.” After hearing that, we saw in Dr. Smith not just a trained medical doctor; but a truly genuine person who cares for people and the commitment, desire and resilient attitude that he has in order to help the most vulnerable parts of our society. Thank you Dr.Smith for inspiring me and Thank you GBI for making it possible for us to connect with people who are changing the world! Era Met-Hoxha, B.A. Neuroscience (Pre-med) Candidate, Hunter College, New York, New York