Celebrating 10 Top Stories from 2019

January 2, 2020

As we prepare to welcome 2020, the Berman Institute of Bioethics is grateful for a wonderful 2019 and to all the generous supporters who helped make the year so successful. Join us in looking back at 10 of the Berman Institute’s many highlights in 2019.

1. Berman Institute faculty were recognized in 2019 for their extraordinary careers and leadership in bioethics.Ruth Faden received the Beecher Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Hastings Center’s most prestigious award for contributions to ethics and the life sciences.

Cynda Hylton Rushton was inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing’s International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame and received the Society’s Daniel J. Pesut Spirit of Renewal Award. Marie Nolan received the Distinguished Career Award from the Hospice and Palliative Care Nurses Association.

2. Berman Institute faculty published a number of groundbreaking books in 2019. Representing the culmination of a multi-year scholarly effort, The Oxford Handbook of Public Health Ethics provided for the first time a sweeping and authoritative review of public health ethics, with Berman Institute faculty writing 23 of the book’s chapters and editing 11 of its 15 sections. The Handbook’s three editors are the Institute’s Jeffrey Kahn, Nancy Kass and Anna Mastroianni.

Travis Rieder published In Pain, named by NPR as one of the year’s best books. Rieder’s memoir of his experience with opioid dependence following a 2015 motorcycle accident draws upon his expertise as a bioethicist to explore America’s opioid crisis.

In Structural Injustice: Power, Advantage, and Human RightsRuth Faden (and co-author Madison Powers) build on their longstanding call for bioethics to expand its understanding of justice to put forward a groundbreaking theory of social injustice, more broadly. Their theory forges links between human rights and fairness norms and is built to fit a real world characterized by deprivation, human rights violations, disadvantage, and unfair power relations, both within and across nations

3. The Berman Institute continued to expand its bioethics educational programs, in Baltimore and around the world, establishing three new programs. With support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and in conjunction with the Bioethics Chair at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the Berman Institute created the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Bioethics Academy, an intensive bioethics summer course for biomedical researchers and healthcare professionals in Greece. The Berman Institute helped the University of Malaya launch a master’s degree program in research ethics for Malaysia and Southeast Asia funded by the NIH Fogarty International Center. And the Institute started an NIH-funded undergraduate mentorship program that will expand diversity among future ethical, legal, and social implications researchers in the field of genomics.

4. Yoram Unguru continued his national leadership in the effort to limit shortages of vital pediatric cancer drugs. This fall, his advocacy efforts played a pivotal role in helping convince a pharmaceutical manufacturer to reverse its decision to cease production of vincristine, the single most widely used chemotherapy agent in childhood cancer.

5. Since 2015, the Berman Institute’s Ethics for Lunch conference series has provided a monthly opportunity for the entire Johns Hopkins Hospital community – physicians, nurses, medical students, social workers, chaplains, etc.  – to participate in a case presentation and discussion about an important clinical ethics issue. This year, Elaine Freeman ensured the continuation of the series by making a significant gift in memory of her husband, John Freeman, who was a longtime Berman Institute faculty member and the founding chairman of the Johns Hopkins Hospital Ethics Committee.

6. Hanna Pickard, a leading applied philosopher in the fields of philosophy of psychiatry and moral psychology, joined Johns Hopkins as a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Bioethics, holding joint appointments in the Berman Institute and the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Philosophy.

“We are thrilled to have Hanna Pickard as our newest Bloomberg Distinguished Professor,” said Berman Institute Director Jeffrey Kahn. “Her research embodies the Berman Institute’s emphasis on utilizing interdisciplinary approaches to explore pressing ethical issues in real-world settings.”

7. Berman Institute faculty continued to help guide the ethically responsible development and use of new technologies. Jeffrey Kahn was named to the International Commission on Clinical Use of Human Germline Editing, tasked with identifying the scientific, medical and ethical requirements to consider when assessing potential clinical applications of human genome germline editing. Debra Mathews was appointed to chair the Maryland Stem Cell Research Commission’s work in identifying and fostering research and innovation statewide in the field of regenerative medicine.

8. With the selection of Vines Architecture to lead the initial planning, development continued on Henrietta Lacks Hall, the multi-disciplinary building that will adjoin the Berman Institute’s Deering Hall. Lacks Hall will support programs that enhance Johns Hopkins University’s participation and partnership with members of the community in research that can benefit local residents, as well as extend opportunities to further study and promote research ethics and community engagement through an expansion of the Berman Institute and its work. The design phase will begin in early 2020, with planned completion in late 2022.

9. Berman Institute faculty are regularly sought to offer bioethics insight and analysis by journalists from leading media outlets around the world. In 2019,Jeffrey Kahn had a recurring role in the four-part Netflix docuseries “Unnatural Selection,” continued his regular monthly appearance on Baltimore’s NPR affiliate, and was quoted by the Washington Post among numerous other publications. Yoram Unguru appeared in the New York Times and on NPR to help publicize and combat a pressing public health crisis, Jess Fanzo and Ruth Faden authored opinion pieces in Bloomberg News and the Los Angeles Times, respectively, and dozens of other faculty appeared in scores of news stories.

10. The Berman Institute continued to train the next generation of leaders in bioethics. 2018 PhD graduate Rachel Fabi, an assistant professor in the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at SUNY Upstate Medical University, was selected by the U.S. National Academy of Medicine as one of five fellows nationwide in its 2019 class.

On behalf of the Berman Institute’s faculty, students and staff, thank you for making 2019 such a memorable year. We look forward to more great stories in 2020!