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Hastings Center News

“Packed to the Brim With Unique Insights”

Justice and Water. Race in Bioethics. Reproductive Ethics. Global Health Justice. These were among the wide range of topics explored in The Hastings Center Summer Bioethics Program for Underrepresented Undergraduates, which took place online from June 12 to 16. This was the second year of the program for undergraduate students from groups that are underrepresented in bioethics, including but not limited to communities of color, Indigenous communities, residents of rural areas, and people with disabilities.

The program aims to stimulate students’ curiosity about bioethics, prepare them to think about bioethics challenges at multiple levels (individual, familial, organizational, community, state-level, national, and global), and introduce them to ways to integrate bioethics into their career plans. Program faculty include Hastings Center Fellows and research staff and other distinguished and diverse experts, such as Indigenous water rights expert Michelle Brown-Yazzie of the Navajo Nation and global health justice scholar Sridhar Venkatapuram of Kings College London.

Nineteen students, selected through a highly competitive national application process, completed the program.

In their evaluations of the program, students describe what they most valued about this intensive week of learning and discussion. One participant wrote, “every single lecture was packed to the brim with unique insights, information, and new perspectives,” and that “to hear directly from people who have been through the grueling process of trying to ‘make it’ in bioethics as members of underrepresented groups affirmed to the group that we could pursue a bioethics career.” Several participants praised the session on “community-building” with The Hastings Center’s Sadler Scholars, a cohort of doctoral students with research interests in bioethics who are from racial or ethnic groups underrepresented in disciplines relevant to this field.  A session on Bioethics and LGBTQ+ issues, focused on access to health care for people who are trans, elicited this comment: “Many LGBTQ+ individuals live in constant fear . . . Seeing and listening to researchers . . . pursuing the work they love was incredibly reaffirming.”

Tia Powell, who has co-chaired the program since its creation, said, “The initial spark for this program came from discussions at The Hastings Center Fellows’ Council, in which we reflected on the need both for both better ways to engage Fellows and to build greater diversity within bioethics. This program was designed to promote both goals. And it has been a real joy to see it come to fruition these past two years.”

“It’s so important to engage with these underrepresented undergrads, not only to inform them about the substance of contemporary bioethics debates, but also to introduce them to possible career and educational pathways that they might otherwise never encounter,” said co-chair Stephen Latham.

Nancy Berlinger, a senior research scholar at The Hastings Center who directs programming for the Sadler Scholars and serves as liaison to the undergraduate program, said, “It was wonderful to connect  undergraduates who are discerning ways to do contemporary bioethics with members of our Sadler Scholars community, who are beginning the next chapter of their professional lives as postdocs and tenure-track professors, and with established bioethics scholars from diverse backgrounds who can explain how to build and sustain rewarding careers. Opportunities like these are crucial to the support and flourishing of diverse scholars at every stage.”

Learn more about the summer bioethics program, including this year’s program, faculty, and student participants.

The Summer Bioethics Program is part of The Hastings Center’s efforts to build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive bioethics community. The Hastings Center is grateful to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for helping to support the 2023 Summer Bioethics Program for Underrepresented Undergraduates.