Tag: education

Blog Posts (32)

February 24, 2017

The Danger of Using ‘Model Minority’ Narratives in the Aftermath of Trump’s Immigration Orders

By Emily Jenab, MA Hundreds of demonstrations and protests have taken place across the country in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order which targeted immigrants in the reevaluation of visa and refugee programs, otherwise known as the “Muslim Ban.” While the intention of the protests was to reflect America’s inclusivity, the tactics and media … More The Danger of Using ‘Model Minority’ Narratives in the Aftermath of Trump’s Immigration Orders
December 21, 2016

In Memoriam: John A. Balint, MD

After over three decades of dedicated service to Albany Medical College as a researcher, practicing physician, administrator, and mentor, when some people might consider retirement, John Balint in the early 1990’s was just beginning to redefine his career. It was during this time that I first met John at the University of Chicago, Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, when we were both members of the 1993-1994 Fellowship class. I was privileged to learn about his amazing life up to that point, but what seemed more important at that time, were his high hopes for the future.

John sought out this fellowship opportunity to prepare himself to lead the new Center for Medical Ethics which would be charged with teaching a new course that was being created in the curriculum reform process called Health, Care, and Society (HCS). To say John was excited about the new direction of his life was an understatement. As one of the leaders of this four-year longitudinal course, John was now able to focus on his deepest passion in medicine: the physician-patient relationship and the elements of good doctoring.

Of course I know now that John had been preparing for his new role from the beginning of his life. He often said his interest in the physician-patient relationship was passed along to him from his father, Michael Balint, the prominent physician-psychoanalyst and early thought leader on this topic. As a small boy growing up in Budapest, Hungary, John told me the story of joining his dad on a trip to Vienna to visit Sigmund Freud, where John played under Freud’s desk while the two men talked about their patients. Though John went on to study medicine at Cambridge University in England, and then received advanced training in gastroenterology both in England and the United States, he maintained an interest in his father’s work, which included The Doctor, The Patient, and His Illness originally published in 1957.

John came to Albany Medical College in 1963 to head the new division of gastroenterology and to put an indelible mark on the institution to which he dedicated most of his life. From having leading roles in NIH research grants, to serving as chair of the Department of Medicine and being an invaluable mentor and teacher to many students, residents, and fellows, John was a remarkably well-rounded physician-scientist. But most of all, as those who were around him in the clinical setting know, he was the consummate clinician—a good doctor in the mold of great doctors since Osler. One can hardly imagine better preparation, along with a fellowship in medical ethics, for leading the new program in ethics in Albany.

I was honored and excited when John asked me to join him as his new associate in the Center For Medical Ethics, Education and Research. When I joined him in 1994 our primary mission was to develop HCS throughout the 4 years of undergraduate training ,(the first year had begun in 1993-94), start a new clinical ethics consultation service for the physicians and nurses at Albany Medical Center, and become part of the lifeblood of the institution. John was never interested in purely theoretical pursuits in ethics—he wanted the new focus on ethics to make a positive difference in the lives of the students, patients and staff we served. Within a few years Liva Jacoby and Sheila Otto joined John and me, and together we were making our mission a reality. During our first decade working together I was honored to coauthor a number of papers with John including our 1996 article, Regaining the Initiative: Forging a New Model of the Patient-Physician Relation, which was published in JAMA.

John was a visionary who never stopped dreaming about new possibilities with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm. He was excited to support the joint Albany Medical College/Union Graduate College Master’s of Science in Bioethics as well as the new Distinction in Bioethics for our medical students, both of which began in 2001. By the time John stepped down from the directorship, the Center for Medical Ethics had become the Alden March Bioethics Institute, which has continued to grow and flourish. But it began with John’s passion to make ethics relevant in medical education and in clinical practice, and to train a new generation of young learners to become good doctors.

Though we mourn his loss, we also celebrate his remarkable life and work. He will be greatly missed, but the mission he dedicated himself to and our memory of him will continue.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.



December 5, 2016

Looking Back at the Bioethics Commission’s Blog

Throughout its tenure, the Bioethics Commission has maintained an active digital presence to connect with a global audience. A major component of this has been through its blog. This final blog post reflects on the role the blog has played in disseminating the Bioethics Commission’s work.
June 10, 2016

Small Minds

I have recently read an opinion piece published in the Chronicle of Higher Education by John Kaag and David O’Hara entitled Big Brains, Small Minds. In this article Kaag and O’Hara boldly assert that “We are on the verge of becoming the best trained, and least educated, society since the Romans”. In the ensuing explanation we learn that education is science is what he refers to as “trained” while education in the humanities is what he refers to as “educated”. Apparently I have been trained and he has been educated. What a crock. Because I have been trained and not educated it is probably important to clarify that I mean crock not in the sense of an earthenware jar but rather in the sense of something which is complete nonsense.

Kaag and O’Hara appear to believe that one of the primary roles of the humanities is to critique science. That is fine; everybody should critique science, it is much too important to not be evaluated in the context of all types of human knowledge and understanding. It is also fine that they suggest that humanities should not be judged by the metrics of hard science. Of note, however, is I have never heard anyone suggest that humanities should be judged by the metrics of hard science. But I think it is probably important to note, however, that if it is the job of humanities to critique science perhaps those doing the critiquing should also know some science. It should also be kept in mind that scientists are pretty good at critiquing the sciences and, in fact, we usually spend quite a bit of time and energy critiquing each other. Just for the record, Kaag and O’Hara write that Plato teaches us that part of the liberal arts enduring mission is to critique the objectives of science. Science was rather different in the time of Plato. Perhaps he should have a more recent reference. He should also remember that at the time of Plato there was really no distinct boundary between science and philosophy. The authors cite the story of Herodicus as told by Socrates as an example of a disordered mind having “been trained in the STEM fields of his time”.  Really! This took place in the fifth century BC. Again, I think we may well need a newer reference. Parenthetically Herodicus showed great insight in advocating the value of exercise in preserving health.

The job of a professional scientist is to learn what has previously been unknown. They must be able to understand and appreciate the state of knowledge in their field, identify the boundaries of knowledge, and formulate hypotheses that if proven produce new knowledge. For a scientist to be successful they assume the burden of proving or disproving that hypothesis. They must have the communications skills to present their ideas in an adequately compelling manner to be awarded resources to engage these scientific pursuits. They must communicate their findings to the world. None of these are endeavors of the small mind.

The authors of this essay state “If you’re interested in learning about justice, you don’t go to the chemistry laboratory. You go to philosophy class and travel to Plato’s Republic. Perhaps so but I am unconvinced. If the justice one seeks has to do with environmental preservation, species extinction, and biomedical innovation perhaps this is positively contributed to by those who have had their minds expanded by an education which includes science.


The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.

May 26, 2016

Obsessed with Smartness

I came across an article published recently in The Chronicle of Higher Education with the rather surprising title: “Are Colleges Too Obsessed With Smartness?”

I have spent the last forty-eight years at one college or another as a student, fellow or faculty member and for nearly all of that time I have always thought of smartness as a good and admirable thing in those who taught me, those I taught, and my colleagues. I thought therefore, that it might be worth taking a look to find out exactly what he meant by “smartness” and what he thought was wrong with higher educators being interested in smartness. I will admit that I began reading with the idea that the contention might possibly be misguided. I also went into that consideration aware of the frequency with which overreaching statements made in The Chronicle of Higher Education by retired professors really mean that they are promoting a book. In this case the latter was true but I will not name the book as I do not wish to promote it.

Eric Hoover, Professor Emeritus at UCLA actually appears to define smartness pretty much the same way everybody else does “in the traditional sense, kids who get the highest grades and testy scores.” He objects that the “emphasis on these students” is “to the detriment of everybody else”. He does not really provide much of an argument, in this article, how this is to the detriment of everybody else. It may very well be true that these students have an advantage in gaining admission to some institutions and being awarded certain scholarships. Is this necessarily bad? I am not sure I believe this is a problem. There are many scholarships awarded on the basis of need. Is it wrong that some are awarded on merit?

When I served as a consultant to my local public school system I learned that the curriculum was aimed at the average students and that there were many programs in place to assist lower achieving students. The smartest students were often left underserved, bored and uninterested and as a result underachieving. I was happy to advocate and help design programs for these students.

There are many opportunities in place where a student’s innate qualities may be to their advantage. When I made my rather marginal attempts to succeed on my high school football team I accepted the fact that the largest, strongest, fastest players had an advantage. In defense of my teammates I will note that many of them were quite smart as well. I do not think there is anything wrong with obtaining advantage based on being smart, especially in an educational system in a society and economy which rewards merit and accomplishment. I could not have achieved much if I had to be strong and fast to succeed. I am glad there was an opportunity for me to achieve and succeed based on the things I was able to do. I am glad that others will also be able to succeed based on what they can do.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.

March 30, 2016

Save Algebra

Those of you who have followed my blog posts know that I sometimes express my views about education. I have argued for the value of broad-based education and in particular I have advocated both that scientists should receive quality education in the humanities and that those in the humanities should receive quality education in science. Now I am ready to again argue for inclusion of broad educational requirements and in particularly disagreeing with a man named Andrew Hacker who has, for some years now, argued against the required teaching of algebra. Andrew Hacker is a professor emeritus of political science at Queens College of the City University of New York.  Mr. Hacker notes that some students drop out of both high school and college and that others fail courses. These contentions are most certainly factually correct. But Mr. Hacker than goes on, with an amazing disregard for citing actual evidence, to identify mathematics in general, and algebra courses in particular as the reason for students who fail to complete or succeed in their education. In an opinion piece published in 2012 by the New York Times. Hacker argues that making mathematics education mandatory is a barrier in developing young talent and a major obstacle to their continued education. He claims without data or attribution that eight million high school and college students struggle with algebra every day. He indicates that one in four fails to finish high school and again without data or attribution indicates that “Most of the educator’s I’ve talked with cite algebra as the major academic reason.” Not this educator. He does cite the agreement of a teacher named Shirley Bagwell of Tennessee who is apparently another anti-algebra crusader.

It has never been more important than the present time for those who are educated to be grounded in mathematics in general and in specifically in algebra as a fundamental building block to mathematics literacy. We live in a world where science and math are a part of virtually all knowledge. I guess Mr. Hacker’s background in political science have prepared him well to make these fundamental decisions on educational standards for everybody. There was some media coverage of Mr. Hacker’s opinions in 2012 although it is unclear to me why the New York Times provided him a vehicle to advocate his anti-educational diatribe. He did not seem to change many opinions on this. However he has a new book out and this seems to be the basis for rehashing his views before the public.

Michael Gerson coined the term “the soft bigotry of low expectations”. (Yes, I did just quote a republican.) Mr. Hacker seems to be extending this concept by having low expectations for just about everyone.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website. 

October 16, 2015

If I Were Running the Place

<p style="font-size: 11.2px; line-height: 19.04px;"><span style="font-size: 11.2px; line-height: 19.04px;">I have a riddle for you.  Start with six attorneys; add three management consultants, three financial executives/advisors and a couple of bankers. Sprinkle in, one each, clothing store chain CEO and entertainment retail chain CEO. Add executives from a supermarket chain, a construction company, and a paper products company. Fold in a hedge fund manager, real estate executive, and an accountant. Finish with a reputation management expert and exactly one educator and one physician. What have you got? Perhaps you have the membership of an exclusive club, perhaps a class reunion of an exclusive prep school. No not these.  I will not make you guess any more. What you have is the Board of Directors of a large academic medical center which includes a major teaching hospital and a medical school. This academic medical center educates medical students and physicians, graduate students in science and other health professions. This teaching hospital is a major health care provider in the state capital of a large northeastern state. The academic medical center is the leading biomedical research organization in the region.</span></p> <p style="font-size: 11.2px; line-height: 19.04px;">The Board of Directors is fully responsible for the governance of this large and complex organization. This organization has a mission to educate, to conduct biomedical research, and to provide patient care services. I was expecting to see that this list of directors would include expertise from renowned educators with national reputations. I was expecting to see a list containing outstanding biomedical researchers who discovered knowledge which made the world a better place. I was expecting leaders from the field of healthcare and medicine. But that is not what I found. I was surprised.</p> <p><span style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 19.04px;"><strong>The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a</strong> </span><strong style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 19.04px;">Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our <a style="color: #000099; text-decoration: underline;" href="http://www.amc.edu/Academic/bioethics/index.cfm">website</a>.</strong></p>
August 11, 2015

…So That We Know How to Live

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

This Spring Quarter I had the honor of creating and teaching a new course at my university: HLTH 341 Death & Dying.…

June 30, 2015

Professionalism in Medicine: I Know it When I See it

by Jennifer Chevinsky, BS

A medical student comes into the hospital wearing his favorite pair of old, ripped, dirty jeans.

A physician ‘pimps’ a medical student and publicly shames her when she doesn’t know the answer.…

June 17, 2015

Does Clinical Ethics Consultation Lend Itself to Professionalization?

<p style="font-size: 11.1999998092651px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><span style="font-size: 11.1999998092651px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">Let me say emphatically at the outset of this blog, as someone who has been a clinical ethics consultant for over 20 years, I am quite sure that clinical ethics consultations overall improve the quality of patient care and currently are an important, even essential, part of the providing excellent patient care in hospitals. Contemporary medicine is filled with value laden questions and issues that often can be effectively addressed by someone with expertise and training in clinical ethics. Having said this, I am still somewhat skeptical about clinical ethics consultation becoming a professional area of healthcare that parallels other professional areas like medicine, nursing, and social work. I think there are some special considerations about the field of clinical ethics consultation that makes its future status as a professional activity uncertain.</span></p> <p style="font-size: 11.1999998092651px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">First of all it is well-known that CEC’s come from a variety of backgrounds and training—from philosophers to physicians to social workers to nurses and lawyers and on and on. People enter the field of clinical ethics consultations from very different disciplinary backgrounds and seemingly learn a common vocabulary and methodology of clinical ethics and a basic familiarity with and ability to function in the clinical setting. They learn this vocabulary in very different ways—some informally, some through short 1-2 week long intensives, some with certificate programs, some with master’s degrees, and some with 1-2 year long fellowships. No other area of healthcare work admits of such diversity. Though this is a positive feature in some ways by providing diverse perspectives in understanding value dilemmas, it creates a challenge of considerable controversy when we try to define the kind of educational training a future CEC should have. At the moment there seem to be many pathways into the field and no clear answer has emerged.</p> <p><strong style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; line-height: 19.0400009155273px; font-size: 12px;">The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our <a style="color: #000099; text-decoration: underline;" href="/Academic/bioethics/index.cfm">website</a>.</strong></p>

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Published Articles (3)

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 8 Issue 12 - Dec 2008

Response to Open Peer Commentaries on Medical and Nursing Students' Television Viewing Habits: Potential Implications for Bioethics

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 8 Issue 12 - Dec 2008

Medical and Nursing Students' Television Viewing Habits: Potential Implications for Bioethics

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 7 Issue 4 - Apr 2007

Gunther von Hagens' BODY WORLDS: Selling Beautiful Education

News (3)

May 20, 2012 12:40 pm

Father calls for organ donation lessons in schools (BBC News)

A father who lost his son to leukaemia is calling for secondary schools and colleges to include one lesson on how to donate stem cells, blood and organs. Keith Sudbury wants to raise awareness by making donation part of the curriculum for students aged 16 and over.

May 4, 2012 1:34 pm

Better ethics education needed in community-based research (Phys.org)

A growing number of health research programs are collaborating with community groups to conduct research. The groups help recruit study participants, obtain informed consent, collect data and provide input on study design and procedures. But existing programs that educate researchers, community groups and institutional review boards about research ethics “fail to meet the needs of all groups that have a role in community-engaged research,” according to an article in the Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics.

April 12, 2012 9:58 pm

Confusion Reigns in Tennessee (Science Insider)

Teaching science in Tennessee may become more confusing now that an antievolution bill has been added to the state’s statutes. Governor Bill Haslam yesterday declined to either sign or veto HR 368, which prohibits school officials from stopping a teacher from helping students understand so-called controversial subjects such as evolution and global warming. Never mind that teachers say they need no such protection, or that thousands of educators and scientific societies (including AAAS, which publishes ScienceInsider) had urged Haslam to veto the bill because it wrongly suggests that the scientific community is divided on these issues.