Gail Geller, ScD, MHS

Director of Education Initiatives; Core Faculty; Professor


1809 Ashland Avenue
Room 202
Baltimore, MD 21205
  • Director of Education Initiatives
    Core Faculty
    Berman Institute of Bioethics
  • Professor
    Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
  • Professor
    Departments of Health, Behavior & Society and Health Policy & Management
    Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Professor
    Department of Sociology
    Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts & Sciences

Gail Geller, ScD, MHS, is the Berman Institute’s Director of Education Initiatives and a Professor in the Department of Medicine, with joint appointments in the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Departments of Health, Behavior & Society and Health Policy & Management, and the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences’ Department of Sociology, and an adjunct appointment in the Center for Medical Humanities and Social Medicine. As a sociologist, Dr. Geller applies the social and behavioral sciences to moral and humanistic questions in medicine and public health.  Dr. Geller has been an active member of the ELSI (Ethical, Legal & Social Implications of Genetics) research community since its inception. For over 30 years, she has conducted empirical research – both quantitative and qualitative – on the ethical and social implications of genetic testing in the adult, pediatric and family contexts. She has been a member of two NIH Consortia: the Cancer Genetics Studies Consortium and the Informed Consent Consortium, and co-chaired the Task Force on Informed Consent for Cancer Susceptibility TestingAs former Co-director of a Fogarty International Center training grant in China, Dr. Geller taught young Chinese geneticists about the social, psychological, cultural and ethical components of their researchMore recently, she has applied her expertise in genetics to the infectious disease context. She served as Co-Principal Investigator of an NHGRI CEER (Center of Excellence in ELSI Research) designed to address the ELSI issues arising from the application of genomics to the prevention and treatment of infectious diseasesCurrently, she is co-investigator on an NIMH-funded study of ethics and stakeholder attitudes toward molecular epidemiology for HIV surveillance. 

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In addition to her work in genetics, Dr. Geller’s other substantive areas of scholarship include the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), the role of palliative care in chronic diseases, and the medical socialization process.  She received one of the highly coveted NIH “challenge” grants to explore the integration of palliative care in the management of children, young adults and families affected by chronic, life-threatening disorders (muscular dystrophy and sickle cell disease). She received a prestigious Kornfeld Fellowship to explore the intersection of bioethics and CAM. She has served as co-director of the educational component of the Johns Hopkins CAM Center, ethics representative on the Data Safety & Monitoring Board of the National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), and adjunct faculty at the Tai Sophia Institute in their Master’s Program in Transformative Leadership and Social Change.  For 15 years, she co-directed the required Integrative Medicine course for Hopkins medical students, and the Healer’s Art elective. Several of the grants onwhich she has served as PI, Co-PI or Co-I have focused oncultivating respect, trust, empathy, wonder, and tolerance forambiguity among current and future health professionals. The unifying themes that animate her work are communication and decision-making under conditions of uncertainty, and the intrapersonal, interpersonal and social/cultural forces that influence moral development, attitudes and behavior. 

Dr. Geller also has longstanding interests in ethics education. She served as Co-Deputy Director of the Greenwall Fellowship Program in Bioethics & Health Policy until 2012, and now, as the Berman Institute’s Director of Education Initiatives, she oversees the Hecht-Levi Fellowship Program in Bioethicsand the Masters in Bioethics . Dr. Geller has occupied several educational leadership positions in the SOM.  She was involved in the revision to the undergraduate medical curriculum that took place in 2009. Currently, she co-directs the “culture of medicine” core theme which includes horizontal strands of particular relevance to ethics, professionalism and social justice. In addition, she directs the Scholarly Concentrationcalled the HEART (Humanism, Ethics, and the ‘Art’ ofMedicine), teaches in the “Medical Humanities & Social Medicine” elective, serves on the Advisory Board for the Center for Medical Humanities & Social Medicine, and directs the Program in Arts, Humanities & Health.  She is a  member of the School of Medicine’s Admissions Committee.   

Dr. Geller has served on the Board of Directors of the American Society for Bioethics & Humanities, the scientific review panel for the ELSI Program (Ethical, Legal and Social Issues) at NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute, the Advisory Board of the Center for Genetics Research Ethics and Law (CGREAL) at Case Western Reserve University, and the IOM Committee on the Review of Omics-Based Tests for Predicting Patient Outcomes in Clinical Trials. She was a Consultant to the Ethics Working Group of the National Children’s Study, the Informed Consent Working Group of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Genetic Testing (SACGT), the CDC’s Program in Public Health Genetics, and the Presidential Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments. She is a Fellow of the Hastings Center. 

Research Interests

  • Ethical and social implications of genetic testing in the adult, pediatric and family context
  • Ethical issues arising from the application of genomics to the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases
  • Medical socialization/education
  • Provider-patient communication under conditions of uncertainty
  • Cultural differences in attitudes toward health and disease
  • Trust in research


  • BS, Cornell University
  • ScD, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • MHS, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Recent Publications

Geller G. Tolerance for Ambiguity: An ethics-based criterion for medical student selection. Acad Med  2013;88:581-584.

Geller GDvoskin R, Thio CL, Duggal P, Lewis MH, Bailey TC, Sutherland A, Salmon DA, Kahn JP. Genomics and infectious disease: a call to identify the ethical, legal and social implications for public health and clinical practice. Genome Medicine2014; 6:106-119.

Geller G, Branyon E, Forbes L, Rushton C, Beach MC, Carrese J, Sugarman J. Health care professionals’ perceptions and experiences of respect and dignity in the intensive care unit. Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics 2015; 5(1A): 27–42.

Geller G, Branyon ED, Forbes LK, Topazian RJ, Weir BW, Carrese JA, Beach MC, Sugarman J.  ICU-RESPECT: An Index to Assess Patient and Family Experiences of Respect in the Intensive Care Unit. J Crit Care 2016;36:54-59. doi: 10.1016/j.jcrc.2016.06.018.

Geller G, Watkins PA. Addressing medical student’s negative bias toward patients with obesity through ethics education. AMA J Ethics 2018;20(10):E948-959. doi: 10.1001/amajethics.2018.948. [Epub ahead of print].

Geller G. The Tyranny of Hope. Hastings Center Report 2019;49(4):3. doi:10.1002/hast.1026.

Walker A, Boyce A, Duggal P, Thio CL, Geller G. Genomics and Infectious Diseases: Expert Perspectives on Public Health Considerations in Actionability and Privacy. Ethics and Health Research 2020;42(3):30‐40. doi:10.1002/eahr.500051.

Geller G, Steinman C, Caldwell M., Goldberg H, Hanlon C, Wonnell T, Merritt MW. Development and Validation of a Capacity for Wonder Scale for Use in Educational Settings. J Psychoeducational Assessment 2020. doi: 10.1177/0734282920918727. [Epub ahead of print].

Geller G, Grbic D, Andolsek KM, Caulfield M, Roskovensky L. Tolerance for ambiguity among medical students: A national study of patterns of change and their significance for professional development during medical school. [published online ahead of print 2020 Nov 15]. Acad Med 2020. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000003820

Rushton C, Doerries B, Greene J, Geller G. In the tragedy of this pandemic, dramatic interventions can heal moral suffering. Lancet 2020;395:305-306.

Geller G, Duggal P, Thio CL, Mathews D, Kahn JP, Maragakis L, Garibaldi B.  Genomics in the Era of COVID-19: Ethical Implications for Clinical Practice and Public Health. Genome Med 2020;12(95). doi: 10.1186/s13073-020-00792-9.

Hunt MF, Clark KT, Geller G, Barnhill A. SARS-CoV-2 Safer Infection Sites: Moral entitlement, pragmatic harm reduction strategy, or ethical outrage? Journal of Medical Ethics Published Online First: 09 December 2020. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2020-106567

Grubbs L, Geller G. Masks in Medicine: Metaphors and Morality. Journal of Medical Humanities 2021;42(1):103-107. doi:10.1007/s10912-020-09676-w

Reis-Dennis S, Gerrity M, Geller G. Tolerance for Uncertainty and Professional Development: A Normative Analysis. Journal of General Internal Medicine 2021