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Supporting International Research Ethics and Education – An Inter-American Bioethics Collaboration

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) Executive Director, Lisa M. Lee, Ph.D., M.S., and Associate Director, Michelle Groman, J.D., spoke yesterday at a workshop hosted by University of Miami’s Pan American Bioethics Initiative (PABI) at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) headquarters in Washington, D.C. The workshop, “Inter-American Bioethics Collaborations: Prospects and Challenges,” included presentations and discussions led by experts in bioethics, medicine, and philosophy from Latin America and the United States.

The workshop began with a presentation by Sergio Litewka, M.D., M.P.H., project director for PABI, discussing the various projects that the initiative has constructed in Latin American countries including Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, and Peru. PABI, which was established in 1993 and is funded by a grant from the Fogarty International Center of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, aims to foster human subjects protection, research integrity, and the responsible conduct of research in Latin America and the Caribbean. This session also included presentations by PABI Principal Investigators Kenneth Goodman, Ph.D., and Paul Braunschweiger, Ph.D.

The Bioethics Commission’s presentation focused on its international research ethics work and its resources for international research ethics education. Groman discussed the Bioethics Commission’s September 2011 report on the U.S. Public Health Service research in Guatemala, “Ethically Impossible” STD Research in Guatemala from 1946 to 1948, and the Bioethics Commission’s December 2011 report, Moral Science: Protecting Participants in Human Subjects Research. She also described the International Research Panel subcommittee report, Research Across Borders: Proceedings of the International Research Panel of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, specifying the impact that the panel had on the Bioethics Commission’s recommendations on community engagement and equivalent protections. Lee spoke about the Bioethics Commission’s creation of accessible educational materials for students in bioethics in both traditional and non-traditional settings. She explained potential uses of the Bioethics Commission’s educational modules and Human Subjects Research Landscape Project – Analysis Dataset. Finally, she discussed how the Bioethics Commission’s A Study Guide to “Ethically Impossible” STD Research in Guatemala from 1946 to 1948, available in both English and Spanish, aspires to engage and excite young students about bioethics.

Other sessions included first hand accounts of bioethics education at the university level throughout Latin America, discussion of international research ethics training programs sponsored by the Fogarty International Center, and a presentation on ethics education programs in Costa Rica. Carla Saenz, Ph.D., Bioethics Regional Advisor at PAHO, spoke on PAHO’s Regional Program on Bioethics and discussed challenges in Latin America, including closing the bioethics language gap and the issues with training mid-career professionals in bioethics.

Participants brainstormed ways to enhance and continue conversations about bioethics and the responsible conduct of research in Latin America. Bioethics Commission staff were excited to be part of such an interesting and productive day.

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