Students in Ethical Decision Making in Health Care had spent the semester in a classroom discussing theories and approaches to ethical health care policy. In April, just a few weeks before exams, they had an opportunity to learn how medical professionals apply some of those theories to real-life medical scenarios.  

Interacting with doctors, researchers and hospital ethicists at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Leadership Studies 377 students met world-renowned pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson, visited a top surgical simulation center, and learned about ethical practices in research from the head of one of the leading research programs in the world.  

“This field trip was a great chance to apply to a medical setting the things Dr. Cassel taught us about ethics in class, and it was amazing that the hospital we visited was the No. 1 ranked hospital in the United States," said Kerrissa Richards, ’11, a leadership studies and biology double major who plans a health care career.

The field study was organized by Patricia M.C. Brown, president of Johns Hopkins HealthCare. Brown, a 1982 graduate of the University of Richmond, is the 2010 Jepson School of Leadership Studies leader-in-residence. At Johns Hopkins, Brown oversees all managed-care products for the 200,000 individuals enrolled in self-funded employer, Medicaid, and Department of Defense health benefit plans.   

Brown greeted the students and joined them for breakfast, which was served in the Johns Hopkins administrative building at the mahogany dining room table that had been used in Mr. Johns Hopkins’ 19th century house. After an introduction to the history of Johns Hopkins, students toured Johns Hopkins facilities led by Nancy McCall, the director of the Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institute. 

Next came what many students considered the highlight of the day, a private conversation with Dr. Ben Carson. The director of the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, he is best known for his high-profile surgeries on conjoined twins and his best-selling autobiography “Gifted Hands” and the recent TNT movie of the same title. Carson spoke about the responsibilities medical professionals have to be involved in policy making. He also discussed the ethical implications of current health reform legislation.

Students also met with Dr. Daniel Ford, the Vice Dean for Clinical Investigation at Johns Hopkins, and an internationally acclaimed researcher of depression and its relationship to coronary heart disease. Hopkins is the No. 1 recipient of research grants in the nation. Ford gave the students a frank overview of the future of medical research and talked about the ethics of current research.

The full day also included:

  • A tour of the new surgical simulation facility used to train nurses, doctors and surgeons as well as to provide insight on teamwork and group dynamics among medical teams.
  • A discussion with the director of risk management, who provides legal advice regarding patient care, medical staff, and ethics issues, on the application of ethics to medical settings using case studies and examples.
  • A session with an expert in preventative medicine about how to ethically design prevention programs.  

Typical of the University's broad opportunities for learning, the class included students with many different interests and majors. Among them were Mary Grace Apostoli, a  global health major with a minor in music, and Helene Calabrese, a first-year who plans to double major in biochemistry and cognitive science and minor in medical humanities. Several students who attended combine biology with medical humanities. One student is an accounting major and one is a political science major.

"My favorite aspect of the trip was dinner with Patty Brown," said Tenaj Ferguson, '11, a psychology major with a minor in medical humanities. "She really embodies a Westhampton College, University of Richmond success. I appreciated her taking time out of her busy work schedule to really impart nuggets of wisdom to us. She is a new hero for me."

Snapshots from the Field Trip


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