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Combined Degree and Physician Scholar Programs

MD/Master of Bioethics

Overview

The MD/Master of Bioethics program (MD/MBE) is designed to provide its graduates with the interdisciplinary training they will need in order to address the ethical, legal, and social challenges in health care today and in the future.

These guidelines offer prospective and current Perelman medical students specific information regarding components of the MD/MBE dual degree program. When students are accepted into the Master's in Bioethics program, they must take responsibility for following all regulations and policies of the Medical School and of the Master of Bioethics Program.

The rest of this site includes the following sections:

Information Gathering

The first step of the process is to gather information regarding the MD/MBE dual degree. Interested students have several resources:

  • MBE website (http://medicalethics.med.upenn.edu/education/master-of-bioethics-mbe) – the Master of Bioethics program website provides detailed information on the program and application process.Dr. Autumn Fiester presents at Info Session
  • MD/MBE Information Session – every fall and spring the Combined Degree office holds an MD/MBE Information Session for medical students. Email announcements are sent out to students prior to the event.
  • Tiffany Albright – candidates are encouraged to contact the MBE Coordinator at talbri@mail.med.upenn.eduto discuss the Master of Bioethics program.
  • Amy Nothelfer – students are encouraged to contact Amy, Coordinator of MD-Masters Programs, at nothelfe@mail.med.upenn.edu to discuss their interest in a Masters program.
  • Perelman SOM Office of Admissions and Financial Aid – As soon as a medical student is considering the pursuit of an integrated dual degree program, financial aid counseling and planning is strongly advised.

For prospective Perelman medical students - there will be opportunities for MD applicants who are invited to interview to interact with the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy and attend a session of an MBE course before, during, or after the interview visit.

Current Perelman medical students are also eligible to take up to 3 elective courses in the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy before formally applying. Many students will take a bioethics course in their first year to test the waters, so to speak. Taking an elective course is an excellent way to learn about the course load, time commitment, and to help determine if the MBE is right for you. Please refer to the Perelman School of Medicine Additional Course Policy on the Student Portal website for information on tuition implications. Also, please note that all BIOE courses must be taken for a grade not pass/fail.

Note that any course taken before applying to the MBE program will count towards the MBE upon acceptance.

Advising

Once a student is accepted into the MD/MBE program, the student will meet with the MBE Program Director, Dr. Lance Wahlert, to develop a curriculum plan. Each student in the Master of Bioethics program will be assigned a faculty adviser, who will guide student course selection and research. Additional student supervision will be given by members of the Department faculty, as well as other faculty at Penn working in various areas of bioethics.

After a curriculum plan is developed, the student must meet with Helene Weinberg in the Registrar’s Office of the Medical School to discuss the plan and seek approval from the Medical School.

Students are strongly encouraged to meet with a staff member in the Perelman SOM Office of Admissions and Financial Aid to discuss financial issues. (See tuition policy below.)

Curriculum & Program Structure

Perelman medical students who are matriculated in the MD/MBE program will be required to complete 9 course units for the MBE degree (2 of which may be transferred from the Medical School curriculum, upon approval). However, the timing of these course units may vary based on the student’s curriculum plan.

Program Requirements:

The following course units are required for the MBE degree :

  • Introduction to Clinical Ethics (BIOE 601) - This course is intended to serve as a broad introduction to the field of bioethics. The course focuses on three of the most important areas in bioethics: genetics and reproduction, human experimentation, and end-of-life care. Each module covers essential bioethics concepts, relevant legal cases, and classic readings on that theme.
  • Conceptual Foundations (BIOE 602) - This course examines the various theoretical approaches to bioethics and critically assesses their underpinnings. Topics include: an examination of various deontological theories, utilitarianism, virtue ethics, principalism, casuistry, feminist ethics, narrative theory, and pragmatism.
  • Rationing (BIOE 565) OR Research Ethics (BIOE 580) OR Advanced Clinical Ethics (BIOE 603)
  • 5 Electives (2 of which may be MD curriculum transfer credits)
  • Final Project (BIOE 996) - A research project that results in a publishable quality paper. See Dr. Wahlert for more details.

Required Course Units:               9

Perelman medical students who are matriculated in the MD/MBE program will have the option to earn transfer credit for two courses in the MD curriculum, ‘Doctoring’ and ‘Bioethics and Professionalism,’ contingent on the completion of supplemental work.

  • To receive one MBE credit for 'Doctoring,' the following two courses must be completed: ‘Doctoring I’ and ‘Doctoring II,’ along with one supplemental 10-15 page research paper under the supervision of an approved faculty member. Please contact Dr. Lance Wahlert for more information.
  • Additionally, to receive one MBE credit for ‘Bioethics and Professionalism’ (FRO 601), the student must write a 10-15 page research paper under the supervision of an approved faculty member and must also participate as a discussion leader (i.e. TA) in this course. Please contact Dr. Lance Wahlert for more information.

Please note that if a student has not made arrangements prior to the course for this work to be counted as transfer credit, he/she cannot apply to use this credit toward the MBE degree.

Timing:

Every bioethics course in the masters program is held in the late afternoon, from 4:30-6:30, once a week for 12-14 weeks. Coordinating the Master of Bioethics course offerings with the demands of the MD curriculum will require careful attention to the guidelines described below. With careful planning, it is possible to complete both the MD and the Masters in four years. To complete both degrees in four years, it will be necessary for the student to implement a schedule which takes into account the maximum number of courses which may be taken in a given semester.

MD/MBE Degree Completion Time:                4 Years (with careful planning)

Starting the Master of Bioethics program any later than the spring of the third year in Medical School will require that additional semesters be added to the standard timeline for Medical School in order to complete the degree. Students do have the option of taking a 5th year to complete the MD/MBE. However, there may be financial aid implications (see "Financial Aid " below for details).

Students must be proactive about researching any possible changes from the original schedule approved by the Medical School and the Master of Bioethics program. Some seemingly simple changes in course selection and timing may have the unintended consequence of adding additional semesters and increasing tuition. Be sure to consult with the Medical School and the Master of Bioethics program directors before making adjustments to your schedule.

MD/MBE Sample Study Plans:

The following are possible scheduling scenarios that an MD/MBE student might follow. They are based on the assumption that students will complete the requirements for two transfer credits.

Sample 1: Begin MD/MBE Spring of First Year (note that a MBE elective may be taken in the Fall of Year 1 as well)

 Year Fall Spring Summer
1 MD Curriculum 1 MBE credit
MD Curriculum
1 MBE credit
2 1 MBE credit
MD Curriculum
MD Curriculum MD Curriculum
3 MD Curriculum 1 MBE credit
MD Curriculum
MD Curriculum
4 2 MBE credits
MD Curriculum
1 MBE credit
MD Curriculum
 

Sample 2: Begin MD/MBE Fall of Second Year

Year Fall Spring Summer
1 MD Curriculum MD Curriculum  
2 1 MBE credit
MD Curriculum
MD Curriculum MD Curriculum
3 MD Curriculum 1 MBE credit
MD Curriculum
1 MBE credit
4 2 MBE credits
MD Curriculum
2 MBE credits
MD Curriculum
 

Medical School Planning:

There are several things to keep in mind when making your Medical School plans:

Financial Information (2013-14)

Tuition Policy:

The Perelman School of Medicine tuition policy for the MD/MBE program seeks to minimize the additional financial burden for students enrolling in the program. The Medical School will cover the cost of 4 MBE required course units (in a fall or spring semester) as long as the student has not taken any other university registered credits. Students who also take advantage of the 2 units of transfer credit (see details above) from the Medical School curriculum will therefore only need to pay for 3 of the 9 course units required for the degree.

Perelman medical students will be charged additional tuition for:

3 MBE graduate school course units

IF 2 credits have been earned via ‘Doctoring’ and ’Bioethics and Professionalism,’

AND

IF the Perelman School of Medicine is paying for 4 course units (which would happen as long as the student has not taken any other university registered credits).

Students will be charged for more than 3 course units if either of the above conditions are not met. Students with questions about credits earned or needed should contact Helene Weinberg, Registrar of the Medical School. If the Medical School is paying for 4 course units, these would normally be the first 4 the student takes with the exception of any courses taken during the summer.

Tuition:               ~$5400/course. This includes a general University fee and the technical fee. (2013-2014)

Financial Aid:

As soon as a Perelman medical student is considering the pursuit of an integrated dual degree program, financial aid counseling and planning is strongly advised. Students should contact Jean Fox at the Perelman SOM Office of Admissions and Financial Aid.  She is available to help explain program costs, the financial aid process, funding options and how to apply for financial aid. Here are some things to consider:

1. It is recommended that a student who needs to maximize his/her eligibility for loans takes 2 or fewer MBE course units per term. By taking 2 or fewer MBE course units each semester, a medical student can retain a Perelman School of Medicine scholarship and would have a Stafford eligibility of $40,500. If a student takes 3 or more MBE course units in a semester, the loan/scholarship system will automatically categorize him/her as a Graduate Student (not as a Medical Student), and the student would be eligible for a significantly lower amount of Federal Aid/Scholarship funds. A student who takes 3 or more MBE course units in a semester is not eligible for a Perelman School of Medicine scholarship and has a Stafford eligibility of $20,500.

2. Stafford loans have aggregate limits, which are cumulative and include any undergraduate, graduate, and medical school loans borrowed in the Direct/Stafford loan program. For any semester when a student is a full-time MBE student (versus full-time MD student), the MBE program aggregate limit is $138,500 versus the MD aggregate limit ($224,000).

3. There are a number of private loan programs which are available for students in meeting program costs if necessary. These funds are credit based and more costly. The Perelman SOM Office of Admissions and Financial Aid lists preferred private loan lenders on its website. Students who anticipate applying for a private loan are encouraged to contact the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid to discuss options and determine the best program based on individual circumstances and prior borrowing.

Bellet Scholarship:

The Samuel Bellet Scholarship Fund honors the memory of Dr. Samuel Bellet and celebrates his pioneering work in cardiovascular research and medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.  The purpose of the Fund is to award scholarships to candidates for the Medical Doctor (MD) degree at Penn who are pursuing the Master of Bioethics (MBE) degree concurrently.  The goal of the Bellet Scholarship Fund is to train committed, compassionate and humane physicians, thereby enhancing the quality of health care delivered in this country.

In 2013-2014, the Master of Bioethics program will be offering several Bellet Scholarships. The scholarship pays for one MBE course. The application can be found on the MBE website.

Bellet application deadline: October 15 and March 15

Admissions

For those students who decide to apply for the MD/MBE dual degree, your next step is to go through the admissions process:

For Current Penn Medical Students:

Admission to the MD/Master of Bioethics program is competitive, and the strongest applicants will have outstanding academic records, interest in the humanities in medicine/bioethics, and a demonstrated passion for the subject matter.

There are two steps to applying:

1) Apply to the Master of Bioethics Program

The Master of Bioethics program information and application can be obtained at http://medicalethics.med.upenn.edu/education/master-of-bioethics-mbe. Students are encouraged to contact Tiffany Albright, MBE Coordinator, at talbri@mail.med.upenn.edu for more information. Please note: in 2013-2014, the MBE program has waived the application fee for Perelman medical students.

2) Submit Master's Program Registration Form to the Combined Degree Office

In addition to submitting an MBE application, Perelman medical students must also submit a Master's Program Registration Form to Amy Nothelfer (nothelfe@mail.med.upenn.edu) in the Combined Degree and Physician Scholar Programs Office (104 Stemmler Hall). The Master of Bioethics program will not consider any medical student's application unless it has certified that the student has submitted the form to the Combined Degree Office.

Application Deadline:               Rolling
The Master of Bioethics program considers applications on a rolling basis.

For Prospective Perelman Medical Students:

Students may only apply to the combined degree MD/MBE program after admission and matriculation in the Medical School.  

Disclaimer

Please note that policies concerning admissions, curriculum, funding and financial aid are subject to change. Additionally, though variations in the curriculum may be possible, any changes will need prior approval and may have financial implications. This website is meant to provide preliminary general overview information only. Students interested in or enrolled in the program should seek personal advising from relevant faculty and staff.

Contacts

For more information regarding the MD-MBE program, contact:

Tiffany Albright
MBE Coordinator
Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy
3401 Market Street, Suite 320
Philadelphia , PA 19104-3308
talbri@mail.med.upenn.edu
215-573-4042

Dr. Lance Wahlert
MBE Program Director
Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy
3401 Market Street, Suite 320
Philadelphia , PA 19104-3308
lwahlert@mail.med.upenn.edu
215-573-8109

Autumn Fiester, PhD
Director of Education
Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy
3401 Market Street, Suite 320
Philadelphia , PA 19104-3308
fiester@mail.med.upenn.edu
215-573-2602

Amy Nothelfer, MSW, LSW
Coordinator, Elective Research and Combined Degree Programs
Combined Degree and Physician Scholar Programs
Suite 100 Annex (Room 104) Stemmler Hall
Philadelphia , PA 19104-6087
nothelfe@mail.med.upenn.edu
215-746-2359

Helene Weinberg
Registrar
University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
Suite 100 Stemmler Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6087
hweinber@mail.med.upenn.edu
215-898-4646

Jean Fox
Financial Aid Officer
SOM Office of Admissions and Financial Aid
Suite 100 Stemmler Hall
Philadelphia , PA 19104-6056
jmfox@mail.med.upenn.edu
215-898-9118