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About the Department of Bioethics and Humanities

Welcome to the Department of Bioethics and Humanities. The primary strength of the department is its rich, talented, interdisciplinary nature, which is a function of the faculty.  Capitalizing on this strength and expanding the visibility of the department has emerged as a key goal for us. 

The Department provides academic education and professional training in bioethics and humanities through an MA in Bioethics; an undergraduate Minor in Bioethics and Humanities; curricula in clinical ethics and professionalism for medical students, residents, and fellows; and sponsored continuing education activities for practicing health care professionals.

The Department of Bioethics & Humanities is committed to excellence in teaching, scholarship, and community service.  Integral to this commitment is promoting diversity and making our programs attractive to traditionally under-represented individuals.

Our faculty represent diverse scholarly disciplines, including medicine, genetics, philosophy, health services, religious studies, education, pathology, history, and other areas.  We partner with faculty from the schools of medicine, law, nursing, pharmacy, public health, social work and the college of arts and sciences. Faculty publications explore a wide range of areas, including the ethical, legal and social implications of genetics and genomic research; community-based participatory research; social justice and access to health care; social inequalities in health and health disparities; medical error;  and palliative and end of life care.
Our graduate students bring training and experience from a variety of fields, including medicine, law, nursing, social work, physician assistant studies, dentistry, and other areas. 

Faculty News

The department congratulates Maureen Kelley, Adjunct Associate Professor, on her upcoming appointment as Senior Researcher/Associate Professor in Ethics and Population Health with the Ethox Centre of the University of Oxford in Oxford, England. The Ethox Centre ( is a multidisciplinary bioethics research center in the Nuffield Department of Population Health. We will dearly miss Maureen’s presence and contributions here in Seattle but look forward to continued collaboration across “the pond”.  Best wishes Maureen- we hope you visit often!

Faculty Wylie Burke, Denise Dudzinski, Nancy Jecker, Tom McCormick and adjuncts Mark Sullivan, Mark Tonelli, Ben Wilfond, and Doug Diekema have been featured in a series of artilces "Bioethics Q&A series: Facing today's dilemmas" by Brian Donohue in the Health Sciences NewsBeat.

Wylie Burke, MD PhD
We extend our sincere appreciation to Wylie Burke for her service as Chair of the Department of Bioethics & Humanities.  Wylie’s tenure as Chair extended from October 2000 through January 2014 and represents a time of expansion, increased diversity, and enhanced multi-disciplinary collaboration.  We are very pleased that Wylie will continue in her role as Professor in the department. 

photos from Burke reception:  

Burke Reception 1

Denise Dudzinski, PhD MTS, Acting Chair
Dean Ramsey has appointed Professor Denise Dudzinski to serve as Acting Chair of the Department of Bioethics & Humanities effective February 1, 2014.  Denise is also our Director of Graduate Studies and will retain that role during her tenure as Acting Chair. Please join us in welcoming Denise to her new role.



Congratulations to Professor Wylie Burke who will receive the 2014 Niehaus Southworth Weissenbach Award in Clinical Cancer Genetics from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.  The award "recognizes leaders in the translation of germ line genetics to preventive care of cancer patients and families"



Bioethics listserv

Are you interested in receiving information about bioethics
events, lectures, discussions, and news of interest? Click here to subscribe to our bioethics listserv.

Faculty/Chair Search

Chair, Department of Bioethics and Humanities
University of Washington School of Medicine,
Seattle, WA

The University of Washington School of Medicine is seeking qualified candidates for Chair of the Department of Bioethics and Humanities. The position is full-time and tenured with appointment at the rank of Associate Professor or Professor...

..for a printable version of the full ad with department fact sheet click here

Bioethics Grand Rounds

“What Does Patient-Centered Care Demand in Deep Cultural Conflict?"

Autumn Fiester, Ph.D.

February 11 2015
4:00 - 5:00 pm
Room T-747 HSB

reception to follow

Dr. Fiester will address the recent movement to provide “patient-centered care” has been hailed as a progressive step forward in meeting the needs of the very diverse patient population of the United States. But while the ideal of patient-centered care is universally endorsed, the ethical obligations it entails have only begun to be explored. One of the most difficult circumstances in which to provide patientcentered care is in deep cultural conflict, where the values and priorities of the patient are in direct opposition to those of the clinical team. Given the mandate to provide care that is culturally and linguistically sensitive, what obligations do providers have to meet patient demands when it is
inconvenient, challenging, or, at the extreme, offensive and antithetical to clinical values? To answer this question, Dr. Fiester employs a strategy of searching for common values that might provide a bridge between patients and providers in deep cultural conflict.

Autumn Fiester, Ph.D., is the Director of Education in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also the Director of the Penn Clinical Ethics Mediation Program and the Co-Director of the Project on Bioethics, Sexuality, and Gender Identity. Her research interests include clinical ethics, mediation, and bioethics education.

Click here for the flyer

We welcome and encourage  everyone to  attend.

"The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks"

Dr. Kelly Edwards, Dr. Malia Fullerton, and Sue Trinidad have developed a discussion guide for use with Rebecca Skloot's book,
"The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks". Click here to download the guide.


Have you seen the online American Medical Association's Journal of Ethics? It is a great resource for ethical issues, case studies, ethics polls, and podcasts.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization has launched a project titled Global Ethics Observatory. It is a world-wide network of databases in bioethics and in other areas of applied ethics including lists of experts in the field of ethics, ethics institutions, ethics teaching programs, and a database of legislation, guidelines and regulations relating to ethics.

Open Spaces: Views from the Northwest is a quarterly magazine for voices from the Northwest that speak with knowledge and insight to issues affecting people in every region. It is created in Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon. Open Spaces offers perceptive articles as well as thought provoking stories, essays and poetry on many subjects including medicine, politics, publishing, culture, law, science, music, business, art, education, health, sleep, food, travel and gardening.

SOM Curriculum Renewal

The faculty in Bioethics & Humanities are pleased to be participating in the ongoing School of Medicine Curriculum Renewal process for the MD program. During the Visioning Phase, 2011-July 2012, our Chair Wylie Burke chaired the Vision Committee which was tasked with defining the guiding principles for the renewal process.  During  the Steering Phase (October 2012  - April 2013),  B&H faculty served on several committees:  Dr. Burke chaired the Governance Committee and served on the Steering Committee,  Erika Blacksher served on the Health Equity Committee, and Kelly Edwards chaired and Denise Dudzinski was a member of the Ethics and Professionalism Committee. During the current Design phase, Dr. Burke continues to Chair the Governance Committee and serve on the Steering Committee and Kelly Edwards serves on the newly formed Integrated Themes Committee.


Alumna Jessie Turnbull was featured in the UWMedicine Connections newsletter highlighting members of the Class of 2013.  Read her profile HERE.


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© 2014, Department of Bioethics & Humanities, University of Washington. Email comments or questions to Webmaster. This page last updated January 16, 2015 .