Student & Alumni Profiles
More to come, please check back!
Who are our students?
Christina Bach, MSW, LSW - Oncology Social Worker, Abramson Cancer Center. Former Director, Veterinary Social Work and Pet Bereavement Services, Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine - Article about Christina in the Penn Current
Who are our alumni?
Click on a name to read what our alumni are saying about their time in the program and how they are integrating their MBE training into their professional lives.
Tara L. Adyanthaya, JD - Associate General Council of Emory University and Emory Healthcare. Article about Tara - 'Bioethicist-Lawyer Lands Dream Job'
Andrew Babson, MBE (2008) -Investment Advisor, Brumbaugh Wealth Management Group
Jill Baren, MD, MBE (2006), FACEP, FAAP - Associate Professor, Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania Medical School
Joanna Bergmann, JD, MBE (2005) - Health Care Lawyer, Ropes & Gray, LLP
Sam Garner, MBE (2008) - Health Science Policy Analyst, NIH Office of Biotechnology Activities in the Clinical Research Policy Analysis and Coordination Program
Scott Halpern, MD, PhD, MBE (2003) - Instructor, Epidemiology, University of Pennsylvania Medical School
Steven Handler, MD, MBE (2004) - Endowed Chair and Associate Director, Division of Pediatric Otolaryngology, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Patrick Hennessy, MBE (2007) - Manager, Amerihealth Administrators/Independence Blue Cross and candidate for PA State Senate, 2008
Sarah Hull, MD/MBE (2008)
Victoria Koszowski, MBE (2007) - Senior Associate, Benefit Risk Management, Quality Systems, Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development
Vicki Lachman, PhD, APRN, MBE (2002) - Associate Professor, Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions
Takunda Matose, MBE (2008) - Associate Bioethicist (HJF federal contractor), NIH/NIAID/Division of AIDS/Human Subjects Protection Branch
Wynne Morrison, MD, MBE (2009) - Assistant Professor, Anesthesia. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Nadia N. Sawicki, JD, MBE (2004) - Current: George Sharswood Fellow, University of Pennsylvania Law School; Fall 2009: Faculty, Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Ahud Sela, MBE (2007) - Rabbi, Sinai Temple, Los Angeles, CA
Dominic Sisti, MBE (2000) - PhD Candidate, Department of Philosophy, Michigan State University
Anthony Vernillo, DDS, PhD, MBE (2005) - Professor, New York University College of Dentistry
After graduating from the MBE program, I changed career goals (away from dental school) and moved into investment advising. While I initially thought my MBE would have little or no relevance to my new career, I have since found that it is extremely relevant, and it actually gives me a strong degree credibility in an area of financial planning that few advisors have.
As a financial advisor, our job is primarily to help people design an implement plans for income in retirement. One of the least touched upon subjects relating to this is end of life issues and the financial toll it can take on families. It occurred to me, "are we doing our job to the best of our abilities, if we are not helping our clients address the hurdles associated with unforeseen medical events and end of life issues?"
Since that time I have been the organizer of a firm wide campaign to bring in clients, along with their adult children and parents, to discuss the importance of a proactive coordinated care plan. Pretty much, we make sure that every client has good strong wills, powers of attorney, and advance directives. We make sure everyone in the family knows where they are and where they can access them. We help clients make decisions regarding their health in a controlled environment, before a medical event occurs, so the family knows that decisions were made in a time of clarity rather than a time of panic. We have provided resources such as an 24-hour online database that will hold all relevant prescriptions, doctors, medical conditions, legal documents, and contacts, which can and has been accessed from all over the world. We have developed a relationship with professional care managers that provide tremendous amounts of help to families with ongoing medical issues. And certainly, we help devise ways for our clients to hopefully fund for care without wiping out a lifetime of savings.
This campaign has been met with fantastic reviews so far. Families are extremely appreciative that we/I are doing this. We have gotten numerous young adults to get their advance directives done, (extremely important given the controversy that we know can arise from conflicting views). And in fact, unfortunately one of our clients had to implement their care plan with the help of a professional care manager. While tragic in the end, I got a beautiful call from a family member, thanking me for helping make a terrible situation a little more bearable.
So all in all, I wanted to thank you again for the wonderful lessons and ideas I learned while in your program.
The process of obtaining the MBE degree, not just the degree itself, connected me to an entire community of like-minded individuals, many of them clinicians, but also others in related fields. The course work and the peer interactions helped validate feelings that I always had with regard to what was important in medicine and how to prioritize it in my practice. An added bonus was the collaborations that I established from within and beyond the Center in both the clinical and research arenas. Every aspect of my academic career has been expanded by this degree. I use the training daily in my clinical care and bedside teaching. I have developed didactic material that I apply to the teaching of residents, fellows, and MBE students. I have been invited to serve as a consultant to the NIH and FDA on research ethics topics, and I have received increased grant funding to conduct research on ethical issues in clinical trials. Last but not least, the degree gave me increased credibility as a "bioethics" expert nationally within my specialty and among my research colleagues.
I graduated from the MBE program in 2005. While still in the program, I served as an ethics consultant to the legal and compliance departments of Princeton HealthCare System in its effort to develop and implement an organizational ethics program. In addition, I co-authored and presented a paper with Arthur Caplan and Nadia Sawicki (MBE '04) on the ethical aspects of state paternity disestablishment laws as part of a one day conference sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
After graduation, I began working in Washington DC as a health care lawyer with the firm, Ropes & Gray, LLP. Our health care group routinely represents academic medical centers, hospital systems, physician practices, and pharmaceutical companies on a wide variety of corporate and regulatory matters. The most exciting aspect of my job, however, is our work with individuals and institutions engaged in clinical trials and human subjects research here in the United States and abroad. It is in this capacity that my MBE is most relevant as the work involves understanding and implementing a complicated set of local, national and international laws and regulations as well as local, national and international codes of ethics that may or may not be codified into law.
The MBE program has provided me with a broader and deeper understanding of the ethical issues, concepts, and vocabulary I needed, especially in the context of research involving protected groups, to enhance my ability to speak knowledgeably on relevant issues and to contribute to the development and implementation of lawful and ethical clinical trials around the world.
The CRpac office is charged with, as the name suggests, analyzing policies that are related to the clinical research enterprise. Our ultimate goal is to aid in the policy harmonization process and to help optimize the efficiency and efficacy of clinical research policy. The office will frequently comment on or offer substantive guidance on developing policy documents, documents that are in the revision process, or other statements put out by various Federal agencies and international organizations. In some instances the office is actually the team lead on developing certain policies. As a new member of the staff (started in December of 2008) I am often charged with doing a significant amount of background research, as there is much to learn, and sometimes I even get to help develop parts of policy documents. Overall, I'm directly or indirectly involved with several policy-related projects in this office. I'm constantly overwhelmed by how much there is to know, but I wouldn't have it any other way!
As one of only two people in the office with an educational background in bioethics, I’ve been fortunate enough to periodically field questions about bioethics and have even had the opportunity to teach some bioethics (mostly research ethics) to the office staff. I recently gave a presentation on bioethics and the harmonization of biomedical research policies. Bioethics, and research ethics in particular, is often so complicated that many of the issues that arise can be quite challenging to mitigate. Far from an expert, I’m just thrilled to be a part of the discussion. Among other things, I will also be working on updating and maintaining our office's bioethics resource website. Not everything I do is related to bioethics, but I do a significant amount of work directly related to almost everything I learned during my time at Penn.
By virtue of their daily interactions with real patients, physicians are positioned to provide unique commentary on the most important and novel issues in clinical ethics. However, despite recent modifications of traditional medical curricula, most medical students remain insufficiently trained to explore these ethical issues in a scholarly way. Completing the MBE program in conjunction with medical school provides such training for those who may wish to incorporate scholarly bioethical or policy-related work into their future careers.
Steven Handler, MD and MBE 2004
Endowed Chair and Associate Director, Division of Pediatric Otolaryngology
The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Professor, Otorhinolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
Going back to school 30 years after finishing medical school?? Well, the 4 years it took to get my MBE (1 class a semester while continuing my full time clinical practice) were amazing. My eyes were opened to the countless ways in which I could apply my newly acquired knowledge to my activities as a Pediatric Otolaryngologist (ENT) at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). I began to serve on the hospital Ethics Committee and moved up to a leadership position on that committee. I have been one of the clinician champions in the process of implementing an electronic medical record (EMR) at CHOP. Among many other advantages, the EMR is one major advance in helping to reduce medical errors by providing legible prescriptions, allergy alerts, best-practice guidelines, etc.
My interest in medical education fit well with my bioethics training, preparing me to participate in UPenn courses for medical students introducing clinical and research bioethics. I have been a faculty preceptor in a long-term course (2 ½ years) that is called “Doctoring” that is intended to provide medical students with an introduction to issues of professionalism, ethics, humanism, etc as they make the transition from basic science courses to clinical involvement with patients. This has been particularly fulfilling as I can see the difference this has made in the evolution and maturation of these young student-doctors.
The accomplishment of which I am most proud, however, is my role in CHOP’s establishing a full-time position for a medical ethicist. After my degree program at the Center for Bioethics, I saw multiple opportunities for the introduction of ethical guidance and education into our clinical programs. While most clinicians work very well utilizing their own personal ethical compass, there are often new areas/problems/disputes which could benefit from open discussions facilitated by someone trained in bioethics. I proposed a new position at CHOP which was enthusiastically approved and funded by our administration. The new medical ethicist (the search is ongoing) will help to facilitate these ethical discussions, develop and participate in educational courses, coordinate research in bioethics, interact with the Center for Bioethics at Penn and facilitate ethical discourse throughout CHOP. This can only improve the care we provide to our patients.
Lots to credit to my four years at the Center for Bioethics. More to come…
Arguably, the issue of the uninsured is the most pressing domestic policy issue of our time. With over 40 million Americans with little or no health care coverage, it is clear that the crisis is at hand. Presently, the guidelines that govern the relationship between most providers, patients, and the third party payers are both administratively and ethically complex. In my career as a Manager with the nation’s largest health care insurer, my experiences in the Masters of Bioethics program have been invaluable in considering (a) what is at play, (b) what could be introduced, and (c) what ought to be factored. Here’s why:
- The excellence of the faculty and staff is unparalleled. Dr. Caplan, Dr. Fiester, and the faculty as a whole are consistently challenging in their pedagogy and familiarity with current research.
- From the Conceptual Foundations course through to the completion of the curriculum, students are introduced to competing analytic models for the consideration of modern-day ethical challenges in medicine and health care.
- I learned as much from my cohorts as from the distinguished faculty. In this regard, the program offered me the opportunity to speak to many other high level administrators in related, real-life business case studies.
- Bottom line: I consider myself, not only a better manager as a result of completing the program, but also a better representative to my constituents and to my family. I recommend this program in the highest terms
I decided to pursue a career in medicine because I believed it would best satisfy not only my passion for science but also my humanistic side. After completing my first semester of medical school, which sometimes felt fraught with minutiae and where most answers were clearly either right or wrong, I yearned for a philosophical complement to my medical education. The Master of Bioethics program seemed like the logical choice, although I confess to having harbored some reservations given the considerable demands of medical school. My hesitation, however, quickly dissolved halfway through my first course, as I realized the extent to which the faculty at the Center are genuinely supportive and understanding of the fact that their students often have competing demands. I have never felt that pursuing the MBE has in any way detracted from my medical education; on the contrary, I feel that my medical school experience would have been in some ways incomplete without it. This has been especially true in my fourth year, as I have begun a research project under the mentorship of Art Caplan to address the ethical controversies surrounding the HPV vaccine. As an aspiring cardiologist, there are many ethical concerns in my future field to be explored as well, from gender disparities in cardiovascular care to end-of-life issues. Whatever my ultimate direction, I hope to continue ethics research throughout my career and to use the knowledge that I have gained from this program to become a more thorough and understanding physician.
One of the many great things about the Center of Bioethics are the opportunities that are presented to the students outside the classroom. In 2006, Autumn Feister, PhD, Director of Graduate Studies, forwarded a message to the bioethics community about a fellowship being offered by Penn's Global Health Program. Being acutely interested in health disparities and international healthcare, I pursued the "Global Framework Fellowship". At the time, I was a part-time student pursuing my master's degree in biomedical ethics (I graduated August 2007). To my delight, I was accepted and in May 2007 I headed to Ghana to work at a hospital in Kumasi with children who have sickle cell disease. This project was lovingly sponsored by a citizen of Ghana, Dr. Kwaku Ohene-Frempong, who is a Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Sickle Cell Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
I knew that it would be a life-changing experience, but I did not know how much this opportunity would inspire and motivate me to continue to learn about the state of health in developing countries. Today, I continue my work on perceptions of pain management in the world with Michele Meltzer, MD (currently a student in the bioethics program and also a participant in the Frameworks Program) and Christiaan Morssink, Ph.D., M.P.H., who is extremely dedicated to improving the lives of the world's poor.
Since graduating from the program I have had multiple opportunities open up to me. I took a position as Associate Professor at Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions teaching ethics to doctoral and masters nursing students and physician assistant students. I got a book contract and edited a book entitled Applied Ethics in Nursing, which was released by Springer Publishing in 2006. Also in 2006 I became the Ethics column editor for MedSurg Nursing and the chair for the Nurse Affinity group of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities. I have been invited to be on three ethics committees, the most recent being in assisted living organization. I have been invited to give over 30 presentations on a variety of ethics topics at national conferences. In 2007, I had the opportunity to meet some of my England colleagues, as we took our nursing doctoral students to London for two courses; the one I taught was entitled Clinical and Applied Ethics in Nursing. My Masters in Bioethics has opened many doors and I will be forever grateful for the knowledge and skill I gained from the program.
I think that one of the great things about the MBE program is that it exposes you to different people and different opportunities that you might not have had access to. I found out about this position through the alumni list-serv since MBE alum, Holly Fernandez Lynch, was already working in the Branch. The branch occupies a very unique niche in bioethics and the protection of human subjects. On one hand, we get to do practical bioethics which has daily implications for thousands of people participating in HIV and AIDS research around the world. At the same time, we get the opportunity to think about philosophical and conceptual issues in bioethics while formulating, modifying, and instituting DAIDS-wide policies. The interdisciplinary make-up of the MBE program has helped me to adjust to this challenging role. For instance, Nora’s classes helped me to get a sense of some of the non-Western issues in bioethics, Jonathan’s classes gave me an introduction to policy issues, and Autumn’s classes gave me some conceptual grounding. All of which are very useful when most of my day is spent thinking about ethical parameters for research done both domestically and at international sites.
I decided to pursue the MBE degree after my faculty appointment at Penn in order to solidify my background knowledge in a field closely related to pursuing my research interests in end-of-life care and physician-patient-family communication. I discovered after beginning the program the tremendous benefits of affiliation with the Center brings in networking with colleagues nationwide, as well as meeting many of the luminaries in the field. I also deal with questions regarding ethical decision-making every day in my role as a critical care attending - the program has given me the historical and philosophical background to truly understand the arguments for and against the choices we make.
In the fall of 2009, Nadia Sawicki will be joining the law faculty at Loyola University Chicago School of Law's Beazley Institute for Health Law & Policy, where she will be teaching health law, bioethics, and torts.
I pursued my MBE while attending law school at Penn. When I graduated from the JD/MBE program in 2004, I followed the career path of many recent law school graduates - I clerked for a U.S. District Court judge, and spent a few years practicing law at a top Philadelphia law firm. At the same time, however, the contacts I developed through the MBE program allowed me to explore the possibility of an academic career path. First, I was offered the opportunity to teach a popular undergraduate course in Law and Medicine in the History and Sociology of Science Department at Penn. I taught the course for three years while also practicing law full-time - needless to say, it involved a lot of late nights! I also followed the Penn Bioethics listserv closely for research and writing possibilities. Two of these projects have come to fruition - a position paper on the ethics of paternity disestablishment that I co-authored with Art Caplan and Joanna Bergmann (JD/MBE 2005) for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as an article in the Journal of Legal Medicine on wrongful living that I co-authored with Michele Mathes (of the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly) and Holly Fernandez Lynch (JD/MBE 2006). In 2007, my hard work was rewarded: I was awarded a two-year research and teaching fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. In my first year as the George Sharswood Fellow in Law and Bioethics, I wrote an article which was accepted for publication in the Yale Law & Policy Review, and even had the chance to present my research at my old stomping grounds: the Center for Bioethics. I'm currently looking for a tenure-track faculty position in health law and bioethics, and look forward to opportunities ahead of me. I credit the Penn MBE program for its support in getting me where I am today.
I have always been fascinated by bioethical dilemmas. In college I planned on becoming a scientist, but my senior year I changed directions and decided to become a rabbi. While in rabbinical school I missed learning about science and while reading articles about Jewish bioethics was interesting I wanted more. I learned from an adviser about the MBE program at Penn and it was exactly what I was looking for. The education I received was second to none. I would often spend the two hours driving home from Philadelphia to New York going over and over the dilemmas and debates that we had discussed in class. The MBE program made it possible for me to bridge my interests in religion and science. Having received such a foundational education in bioethics has made me a better rabbi. I hope to publish many of the papers that I wrote for my classes in Jewish journals and become a resource for the American Jewish community on issues of bioethics. I have taught a number of classes on Jewish bioethics and have already become a resource to my rabbinic peers on matters of Jewish bioethics. I am currently serving as one of three rabbis at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. (Serving under Rabbi David Wolpe, Dr. Paul Wolpe's brother). I plan on joining one of the local hospital's bioethics committees and to continue teaching about Jewish bioethics.
Dominic Sisti, MBE, PhD
Director, The Scattergood Program for Applied Ethics of Behavioral Healthcare (website)
Senior Fellow, Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
I began the MBE program in 1998, while working for a pharmaceutical company. I had recently graduated from Villanova University and entered the MBE program knowing I wanted to cultivate my interests in philosophy and biology through bioethics. As my MBE coursework progressed, I found myself increasingly eager to begin “doing bioethics” full time. It was tough leaving the security of a great job for uncharted waters. Nonetheless, I felt confident that the MBE program was a solid foundation upon which to build a bioethics career—though I also realized that I would need to complete a terminal degree someday. Eventually, with an MBE in hand and the unwavering support of mentors, I began a clinical ethics position where I stayed for several years. Meanwhile, as a Center [now Department] staff member, I started to develop my research goals and began teaching and writing about bioethics.
It soon became clear that it was high time to do what Professors Caplan and Magnus had urged all of the early career MBE students to do: get that doctoral degree! So in 2006, I began the PhD program in philosophy and bioethics at Michigan State University. On this intellectual journey, I found myself exploring the philosophical foundations of bioethics—an exploration primed by the Penn MBE.
All this is to simply say that the Penn MBE program grounds what I now consider my vocation. And by “program” I mean the people of the Department: its director, faculty, staff, and students. I feel proud when I tell new colleagues where I received my Master’s degree and am indebted both to the Department’s superb faculty and to my incredible classmates— many of whom are now successful bioethicists. I am truly honored to be a member of the Penn bioethics family.
One of the best things I ever did in my career was to study Bioethics at Penn. The instruction was superb and the resources at Penn were unparalleled. I could go as far as I wanted—there was simply no limit. I was given the analytical skills to study ethical issues; new thoughts and ideas that I had never considered were there for further study. I also made very good friends.
I developed an interest in ethics while I was a graduate student in Pathology at the University of Chicago. Many years later, I decided to take a one year sabbatical leave from New York University to pursue the MBE degree. My keen interest in ethics had never left. When I checked out the Penn Bioethics web site, I knew that this was something I needed to do.
After completing my MBE degree requirements in August 2005, I joined the ethics committees at the Manhattan Veterans Administration Hospital. I am working with some of its members to put together a forum at the VA this fall on the relationships between physicians and the pharmaceutical industry. I am also an ethics consultant at Bryn Mawr Hospital—a position that I obtained with help from Dr. Autumn Fiester. Collectively, these hospital appointments remain very rewarding. In October 2006, I presented a 15 minute talk at the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH) on HIV infection in Africa. This is an area of keen interest because I participate in dental outreach work in Tanzania every summer. With the expertise of Dr. Paul Wolpe and Dr. Scott Halpern as co-authors, I published my master’s thesis work in Critical Care (April 2007). It is this kind of professional, scholarly collaboration that is a vital part of my Penn experience.
New York University College of Dentistry is unique—it merged with the New York University College of Nursing, the first merger of its kind in the country, to explore new paradigms in health care delivery. Given this new environment, I am also teaching ethics to dental and nursing students. There are many more exciting things to which I now look forward because of my outstanding education from Penn—writing additional manuscripts for publication, participation on ethics panels at dental meetings, and working as an ethics consultant on an NIH grant with the College of Nursing in the area of elder mismanagement. Best of all, I remain in touch with the faculty from the Penn Bioethics program—they are my colleagues and friends.