2021 Summer Seminars

Learn about our seminar leaders on our Primary Team and Summer Faculty pages and by watching brief video discussions on our Youtube channel.   


Due to Covid-19, our 2021 program is online .  Participants will be able to request 2-4 seminars before the program begins.   To receive a certificate, participants must meet all program requirements, including full participation in at least two seminars.

Students will post responses to discussion forums by Tuesday at 5 pm EST. Seminar leaders will facilitate online discussions.  Readings will largely be limited to 20 pages/week/seminar. Students who enroll in a seminar are expected to complete readings and participate in discussion forums.  We recommend that students sign up for 2-4 seminars based on their workload;  participants with part-time jobs or other responsibilities will prefer 2;  participants taking the program “full-time” should be comfortable with 3 or 4.   All required information will be online and can be completed asynchronously, but these materials are supplemented by one hour per week of a live session with the seminar leader.  During this time, students can ask questions, connect with classmates and faculty, and gain insights on the week’s materials.    These live sessions are optional but highly encouraged.   The schedule for these live sessions is:

2021 Seminar Descriptions

Ethics of Climate Change

In this seminar we will examine a number of ethics questions raised by climate change and crises it will cause in global health, population displacement, mass extinction and severe weather. Who is responsible for climate change, and who is responsible for mitigating it—states? firms? individuals? What are our environmental obligations to future generations? Is geo-engineering a permissible option in combatting climate change? bio-engineering? de-extinction of species? Is there an environmental duty not to have children? Is climate-change a feminist issue? Readings will be from contemporary ethicists; no ethics background is assumed or required.  Stephen Latham, the Center Director, will lead this seminar.

Bioethics and the Afterlives of Slavery

This seminar draws on the theoretical work of Saidiya Hartman, Christina Sharpe, and Frantz Fanon to examine how the “afterlives” of slavery and colonialism can inform contemporary debates in bioethics and public health. Students will discuss how various social movements have demanded that institutions treat policing as a public health issue, as well has how gentrification, housing policies, and environmental racism affect both the physical and mental health of vulnerable populations. The seminar will also explore important matters in reproductive justice, including the common experience of incarcerated Black women forced to give birth in shackles. Readings in the fields of Black feminism, Black queer theory, and decolonial thought will also complicate what the doctor-patient relationship looks like under conditions of structural oppression and domination. This seminar will be led by Roberto Sirvent.

Freud, Lacan, and Public Health

This seminar introduces students to the theory and practice of psychoanalysis and explores its implications for the study of narrative medicine, gender and sexuality, public health, psychopharmacology, biopolitics, and critical theories of race. Students will be introduced to key themes in the thought of Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan, with the goal of understanding the structuring role that fantasy, desire, repression, anxiety, enjoyment, and the collective unconscious play in public health discourse. As a result, the seminar is especially relevant for anyone interested in the intersection of bioethics, law, and social justice. This seminar will be led by Roberto Sirvent.

Clinical Ethics

Graduate and undergraduate medical education programs spend years imparting the clinical skills understood as the current “standard of care,” but patients do not always respond well to these standards. Due to the increasing body of clinical knowledge, many medical education programs struggle to provide time and space for ethical reflection on whether the current standard of care is good, just, or respectful. The purpose of this course is to provide an introduction to core ethical questions and common dilemmas inherent in medical care. Brief readings, guided reflection, interactive case studies, and group discussion will be a part of this course. No prior experience in clinical ethics is expected or required – genuine curiosity is highly encouraged. This seminar will be led by Jennifer Herbst and John Hughes.

Ethical Issues in Global Health

An ever-widening gap yawns between those within reach and deprived of medical access throughout the world. Vast populations who subsist in dire need find themselves recipients of foreign aid “donated” by those with frequently competing interests. The legacy of colonialism lingers: the potential for enormous profit from industry and research, as well as geopolitical influence loom behind the scenes. Profound socio-economic and cultural differences frequently threaten to complicate communication between donors and recipients; corruption and profiteering often undermine the most sincere efforts.

Welcome to the front lines of global health, explored with a surgeon who has spent decades working in the field. Key ethical issues in public health, health research, clinical care, and health organization/systems will be surveyed, and the complex dynamics of attempted healthcare delivery in the developing world will be discussed in this seminar. This seminar will be led by Dr. Aron Rose.

Public Health Ethics

Ensuring the health and well-being of a population is a fundamental goal of public health. While state and local governments have expansive powers meant to preserve and protect the public’s health, actions taken in order to protect health and well-being may conflict with the rights and freedoms of individuals. Thus, a central question in public health ethics involves the balances of public good and personal liberty. This seminar will introduce students to ethics in public health. The course will cover the history and general principles of public health ethics, the notion of social justice as a core element, and the social determinants of health and will primarily explore these concepts through the lens of the COVID-19 outbreak, including vaccination, quarantine and isolation. This seminar will be taught by Dr. Zohar Lederman.

Philosophy of Technology and Bioethics

This seminar will provide the students with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills to understand the role of technologies in our life. Technologies, broadly construed, form an inalienable part of human life. However, their increasing presence poses a variety of questions. Can Artificial Intelligence replace doctors in the healthcare practice? How do genetic tests and fitness trackers co-shape our understanding of what it means to be healthy? How do the values and norms of people change in interaction with technologies? If brining woolly mammoth back to life is possible, is it desirable? To answer these and other questions, the students will learn to identify the impact of specific technologies on human practices, as well as critically approach the normative dimension of technologies. The students will learn that rather than being a neutral object or a deterministic force, technologies always mediate the relations between people and the world, co-shaping us as much as we are designing them. The seminar ultimately argues for an informed perspective towards technologies and equips the students with a combination of theoretical and practical skills to maintain it. To mirror this goal, the seminar will integrate theory and practice, introducing the key approaches in philosophy of technology and teaching the students to apply them to contemporary case studies, inviting to wear the hats of technology users, non-users, designers and policy-makers. The seminar will be of interest to anyone who wants to maintain a reflective and critical stance towards technologies in our life. It does not require any background knowledge of ethics, philosophy or engineering.  This seminar will be led by Olya Kudina.

Health Policy Analysis for Bioethicists

Across the globe, bioethics education is still rather scarce.   Those who do have bioethics education are recognized as having specialized knowledge, and therefore are increasingly invited to participate on policy committees. These committees may be at the institutional, local, state, national, or transnational level. It is a weighty responsibility to serve on these committees since health policy formulation is complex and nuanced and may impact many lives. This seminar will provide an overview of the US healthcare system, an understanding of policy formulation and modification, and an opportunity to deepen critical thinking skills.  We will discuss several institutional and national health policies including physician-assisted suicide, end-of-life decision-making for unbefriended patients, healthcare for transgender and nonconforming veterans, as well as policies influenced by international and transnational organizations. We will examine policies through bioethical analysis and will have a brief introduction to the beneficial role of policy analysis methods. This seminar is suited for participants who wish to (or currently) serve on institutional or governmental policy committees, including hospital ethics committees.  (In 2022, this seminar will be the first of two seminars on policy.  In the second term of 2022, students can choose to enroll in the 2-week Policy Lab seminar which will give students hands-on experience with policy analysis tools, including Ishikawa diagrams and logic models.  In 2021, this will be the only policy seminar offered). This seminar will be taught by Lori Bruce.

Bioethics & the Law

This seminar will examine the basic treatment by American law of some major issues in contemporary biomedical ethics. Readings will include standard legal materials such as cases and regulations, a number of quasi-legal sources such as government commission reports and institutional guidelines, and some academic articles. No familiarity with legal materials is assumed; indeed, this seminar is designed for students with no background in American law. For each of the topics listed below, the instructor will offer a very broad and necessarily cursory overview of the area, and then will focus seminar discussion on one or two sub-issues to be addressed in detail. While the focus will be American law, some comparative-law readings will be supplied in order to bring possible alternative approaches to light. Topics include the basics of the US legal system; abortion; end-of-life care and aid-in-dying; assisted reproduction; mandated vaccination; state power to quarantine; and standards of determining death. This seminar will be taught by Rebecca Feinberg.

Bioethics and Psychiatry

The aim of this seminar is to explore emerging ethical issues in psychiatry through professional and personal experiences, with case study analysis and discussion of the latest developments in scientific literature and thinking in the bioethics of psychiatry.
The seminar series will look at identifying and dissecting ethical issues in psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. It will focus on issues such as gender dysphoria in adolescents and adults, personal autonomy in psychiatry and involuntary treatment, the use of legal and restricted drugs for psychiatric treatment, the bioethics of psychoanalysis, and more.
In the context of the bioethics of psychiatry, participants will develop speaking skills, an understanding of dialectic argument based on principles of bioethics, and advanced skills in critical analysis. This seminar will be taught by Santiago Peregalli.

Ethics of Emergency Medicine

This seminar will introduce you to the ethical issues that arise in the course of work in an emergency medicine setting. Through case-based discussions, we will put you “in the shoes” of an emergency physician, to learn about and apply what we know about ethics to a unique environment - the fast paced emergency room, where quick decisions have lasting implications. This seminar will be taught by Dr. Evie Marcolini.


This seminar will introduce you to some of the issues in the area of neuroscience that have ethical implications. We will, as much as possible, study through cases and interactive classroom discussion. We hope to have a session dedicated to the Cushing Center, and tour the historic collection of human brains, and have a discussion of the ethical issues around human bodies in a museum setting.  This seminar will be co-taught by Drs. Evie Marcolini, Karmele Olaciregui, and Ben Tolchin.

Research Ethics

This seminar will cover the principles of research ethics, looking at historical examples of ethical violations and how these led to the development of human and animal research ethics committees.  Best practices in research ethics will be explored. This seminar will be led by Zohar Lederman.

Bioethics on Four Legs … or Six or Eight:  Animal Ethics through a One Health perspective​

Emerging infectious diseases and other international health concerns, biomedical research, agriculture, and the environmental crisis impact humans, non-human animals and ecosystems across the globe.  These urgent concerns call for interdisciplinary collaboration and a One Health   approach to these challenges. In 2009, the Center for Disease Control established  its One Health office, defining One Health as “a collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach—working at the local, regional, national, and global levels—with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment.” This seminar explores nonhuman animal issues from a One Health framework of human, non-human animal, and ecosystem health.  Beginning from the One Health model  and its relevance for today’s world, sessions will include an introduction to theories of animal ethics and public perceptions of animal well-being, agricultural animal demand and consumption, One Health animal related work in biomedical research and biotechnology, and ethics of wildlife management and conservation.  Topic overviews will be presented, followed by moderated discussions. This seminar is designed for students of varied disciplines interested in an overview of animal issues in bioethical discourse. Prior background in animal related studies not required. This seminar will be led by Sue Kopp.

** Last-minute changes are always possible based on unexpected faculty member illness or other such emergency, but there are always plenty of seminars to ensure a robust and enriching summer experience.