The United Nations Headquarters

On July 11, 2019, members of the Global Bioethics Summer Program visited the United Nations.   The visit included a stop at the Permanent Memorial to Honour the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade located on the United Nations Visitors Plaza in New York which was unveiled on March 25, 2015.   After spending the week exploring the relationship between the social determinants of health i.e., poor housing, food insecurity, limited access to healthcare and their relation to global bioethics, the memorial served as a reminder to of the long term consequences of racism and discrimination on the health and well-being of people of African descent and the continued health disparities which disproportionately affect the population.  Roseanne Flores, Associate Professor of Psychology, Hunter College and CUNY Graduate Center

The Rogosin Institute

“What does it mean to be human?” – This is how Dr. Barry Smith M.D., Ph.D., CEO of the Rogosin Institute, professor of surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine, and attending surgeon at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center began his lecture “Clinical Care and Research: Are There Global Bioethical Standards?“at the Global Bioethics Initiative Summer Program. The Rogosin Institute is an independent, non-profit (501c3) clinical and research institute affiliated with New York Presbyterian Hospital, founded by Dr. Albert L.Rubin in 1956. Dr. Smith works with his team to provide the best care for their 1600 patients in 8 dialysis centers around New York City, focusing on kidney disease, chronic kidney care, and a kidney transplant program. He didn’t begin his lecture with a definition of clinical standards, nor the history of the Institute, but with one of the most important, yet not talked about questions: what makes us human? From that answer, we derive the bioethical principles that we must apply in order to transform our healthcare system. The current U.S. healthcare system focuses on disease instead of focusing on wellness. According to Dr. Smith, there is a healthcare system failure directly connected to unsustainable costs, lack of a universal coverage, inequality, and not seeing patients not as human beings. Recognizing the failure of the current healthcare system in the U.S., we can work to create a new model focused on wellness and quality of life. Then, we can add early prevention, screening, compassionate care, empathy, professionalism, behavioral health programs, and use of computer programs to improve the coordination of our patient’s plan of care. However, the most important element in the wellness model is the patient being at the center of it, taking the power to make the best decisions for themselves with the help of 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 Dr. Smith as not just a trained medical doctor, but a genuine person who cares for other whose commitment, desire and resilience help the most vulnerable members 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

Dr. Barry Smith, a neurosurgeon at Weill Cornell Medical Center and president of the Rogosin Institute 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. 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 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