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Bioethics at Clarkson University: Bringing Broadway into the classroom

If you were a student of Bioethics, would you expect to meet a Broadway actor? For students in the Bioethics program offered jointly by Clarkson University and the Icahn School of Medicine, that is just what will happen.

To immerse students in the ethical practice in medicine and patient interaction, Clarksons approach to bioethics goes beyond just addressing theoretical questions. A distinguishing feature of the program is its competency-based and skill-based training through its innovative use of standardised patients (SPs) in supervised exercises and real-world simulations.

The program brings in professional actors from New York City’s theatre, film, and television circles who are specially trained to play the role of patients, healthcare professionals, family members, or potential research subjects. Students have the opportunity to engage with the actors and apply their skills in real time to communicate fully about the ethical dimensions of medical procedures, treatments, or research.

Clarkson University

Source: Clarkson University

This activity helps define the role of bioethics: to resolve ethical dilemmas that arise in health-related sciences. This specialised field involves cross-disciplinary concerns in areas such as life sciences, jurisprudence, ethics and philosophy, and public policy. It involves not just healthcare experts, but also lawyers, academics, and civil service

Actor Kenneth Lee sees interacting with bioethicists training for real-life consultations as immersive, due to the intensity of the scenarios. “This is actually the best training program for actors, too, because you’re dealing with non-actors. You have to be extra truthful and extra honest and extra authentic in order to draw somebody into your world. I think so many of us actors get on the stage and then forget real life.”

The exchange is observed by faculty members on video. After the role-play session, they provide feedback and suggest improvements. “We try to help the students develop skills in thinking through a case, together with the skills in learning how to elicit information from patients,” said Dr. Rosamond Rhodes, Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine, and Associate Director of the Bioethics program. “[We] try to help them balance when you need to speak, when you need to explain something, and when you need to listen more and ask questions.”

The questions embedded in the SP scenarios include the ethical ramifications of stem cell research and organ donation, or explore whether a medical provider fully explained “informed consent”. These questions surface as new breakthroughs in medicine evolve and accelerate at an unprecedented pace. With medical procedures and treatment options becoming ever more varied and complex, so too do issues surrounding ethics, safety, privacy, and autonomy in patient care.

Clarkson’s Lewis School of Health Sciences offers the Bioethics program primarily online and works to help professionals successfully navigate complex ethical questions and challenges in healthcare systems. Whether one is a healthcare practitioner, researcher, or policymaker, the program ensures that graduates are well-equipped to contribute towards compassionate and responsible healthcare in a variety of settings.

Experience hybrid, hands-on learning from a team of experts

When it comes to top-notch bioethical research and teaching, Clarkson and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have a team of experts and scores of experience to support students as they expand their understanding of the field and apply it in real-life situations. Students can choose from two postgraduate options: the Master of Science in Bioethics and Graduate Certificates in Bioethics.

For over 20 years, Clarkson has pioneered hybrid learning in bioethics in the US, running the program through online coursework paired with onsite modules that allow students to carry on with their professional and personal commitments while elevating their careers. Both the Master’s and Graduate Certificate routes offer specialisations for in-depth explorations in areas of ethical development in medical practices.

The Master of Science in Bioethics program consists of 39 credit hours of graduate coursework. Students can choose to pursue it full-time or part-time, and may focus in one of three subject areas: Clinical Ethics, Research Ethics, or Bioethics Policy. The courses are a combination of blended online and on-site modules, starting with an intensive, one-week proseminar in person that introduces newcomers to a broad range of topics in bioethics.

Clarkson University

Source: Clarkson University

This unique, experiential form of learning not only refines students’ effective communication, but also trains them to be empathetic and compassionate when dealing with a potentially difficult situation when lives are at stake. By the end of their studies, the knowledge acquired in Clarkson will help graduates to contribute their expertise in a variety of settings, including areas such as end-of-life decision-making, healthcare access and allocation, or research with animal or human subjects.

Recent alumna, Taimy Falcon, who aspires to a career in medicine and chose the clinical track for her Bioethics master’s, notes, “My hope was to obtain the knowledge needed to feel prepared when encountering challenging ethical cases. I feel the program does a great job at teaching you how to analyze a case, how to establish a conversation with the patient and family members, and ultimately it walks through the steps that might be needed for you to resolve a case.”

Those who want to gain a qualification in a shorter amount of time can opt for one of the Graduate Certificates in either Clinical Ethics, Health Policy and Law, or Research Ethics. Each certificate consists of 12 credit hours of graduate coursework, and responds to the need for more experts with bioethics training in hospital administrations, ethics committees, and research administrations in healthcare.

With individualized mentoring, comprehensive capstone assessments of student mastery to test their preparedness, and first-hand instruction from internationally-recognized experts, the bioethics program at Clarkson University is an enriching experience that honors diverse perspectives. The multidisciplinary approach used in the program results in well-rounded scholars, researchers, and practitioners who have a strong ethical and compassionate underpinning to solve intricate questions and conduct in healthcare.

To request for more information about the bioethics programme at Clarkson, click here.

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