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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

Q&A with chair of UW Department of Bioethics & Humanities


Denise Dudzinski, Ph.D.

In March, Denise Dudzinski was named the new chair of the UW Department of Bioethics & Humanities, a small department that works on big issues – end-of-life care, responsible conduct of research and social justice.
“Ethics provides a kind of scaffolding and language for the moral life. It helps people see moral issues from a variety of perspectives and better understand the reasons that people sometimes – quite reasonably – disagree with each other. We hope this promotes better understanding and tolerance.” Dudzinski said her moral awareness started at an early age when her family moved to Riyad, Saudi Arabia. Find out more about the department through a Q&A with the chair. 

We recommend  Tom McCormick’s article “The Ethics for Doctors in Helping a Patient Die” in the Opinion pages of The New York Times.

Read about Adjunct Professor Doug Diekema’s perspective on childhood vaccination policy in Washington state in this article by Brian Donohue in the Health Sciences NewsBeat.

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.


Congratulations to Professor Wylie Burke on winning the 2014 UW Medicine Award for Excellence in Mentoring.  The award, initially sponsored by UW Medicine's National Center for Excellence in Women's Health, recognizes the need for mentoring of women faculty by all faculty and will be presented by Dean Ramsey to Dr. Burke on June 5, 2015.  Twenty-two mentees submitted letters of support in nominating Dr. Burke for this well-deserved award.   To read the UW Medicine News piece click here.
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Columns Magazine's September 2015 issue Facutly Profile features Dr. Burke/

Faculty Profile: Wylie Burke
Genetic Ethicist
By Julie Garner

Twenty-two years ago, Wylie Burke was doctor to a friend of mine who sustained horrible injuries from a tractor accident. As attending physician during my friend’s final admittance to UW Medical Center, she spoke matter-of-factly about his condition but did so with such compassion, his wife was moved to tears. Today Burke is known nationally for her expertise on the ethical and policy implications of human genome research. While she is a leader in this area of medicine, her ability to ...(continue reading)

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 then 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. Denise Dudzinski now co-directs the Ethics and Professionalism curriculum design.


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 Search

We are pleased to announce a search for a new tenure track Assistant or Associate professor with specialization in clinical ethics.  This faculty member will provide ethics consultation in the newly established UW Medicine Ethics Consultation Service; develop and teach ethics curricula for medical students & resident physicians; teach in our graduate and certificate programs; and participate in independent and collaborative scholarship, research, and teaching.  Interested candidates are invited to apply via Interfolio at

  • Click here for position advertisement
  • Click here for department fact sheet

Bioethics Grand Rounds

Surgical Errors and Adverse Events:
Caring for the Patient and the Surgeon

December 8, 2015
3:30-4:30pm, Turner Auditorium, D209 HSB

click here for flyer

Speaker: Alberto R. Ferreres, MD, PhD, MPH, FACS (Hon.), ASA(Hon.)
Professor of Surgery University of Buenos Aires 
Chairman Department of General Surgery
"Dr. Carlos A. Bocalandro" Hospital

The connection between the prevention of errors during surgical care and surgeons
following the highest and strictest ethical standards will be analyzed. Since the goal is
the ethical practice of surgery and the minimization of error in all its facets – human,
individual, systemic, and technical – error prevention and surgery ethics will be
discussed. We as surgeons need to think about these issues and how they affect
everyday decision making, not forgetting that "surgery harms before it heals".
Alongside any surgical error, there are always two victims: the patient and the
surgeon. Communication breakdowns will be also considered.

Alberto R. Ferreres, MD, PhD, JD, MPH, FACS (Hon.) received his medical degree “summa cum laude” from the University of Buenos Aires School of Medicine, where he completed his residence in General Surgery and a fellowship in Surgical Oncology. He was appointed 1991 International Guest Scholar of the American College of Surgeons, and completed a Fellowship in Clinical Ethics at the University of Chicago. He serves on the Editorial Boards of JAMA Surgery, Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery, and World Journal of Surgery. He is a gastrointestinal surgeon specializing in minimallyinvasive surgery and interested in surgical ethics, global surgery, and professional liability issues. 

Summer Seminar 2015

The Summer Seminar in Health Care Ethics is scheduled for the full week of August each year. The dates for 2015 will be August 3rd-7th.

Please visit our Summer Seminar page for more information.

Department News

Farewell to Susan Reynolds

With deep appreciation, Bioethics & Humanities faculty and staff bid a fond farewell to Susan Reynolds on June 26, 2015.  Susan served as Administrator throughout Wylie Burke’s 14-year tenure as Chair and managed the department through its transition to our new Chair, Denise Dudzinski.  We will miss Susan’s dedication, intelligence, integrity, and humor. We wish her all the best in her future endeavors.

Welcome Chi Do

While the search for a new Administrator continues, we are fortunate to have the help of Thaochi “Chi” Do as Interim Administrator. Chi is Assistant Director, Departmental Business Planning, in the Dean’s Office. She will be filling the big shoes Susan Reynolds left until a full-time replacement is hired. Chi is available in A204 from 9:00 – 1:00, Tuesday – Friday.


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.

"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.


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© 2014, Department of Bioethics & Humanities, University of Washington. Email comments or questions to Webmaster. This page last updated November 24, 2015 .