Bioethics Internship Seminar—Clinical Ethics

Bioethics Internship Seminar—Clinical Ethics (HHE 5701)

The Bioethics Program of the Center for Health Humanities and Ethics offers approximately ten undergraduate Clinical Ethics Internships each semester. This course, HHE 5701, is designed to provide students with experience in discerning and analyzing ethical issues as they arise in clinical settings. Each student will spend 3-4 hours per week on a clinical unit (the same unit throughout the semester) under the mentorship of a health care professional. Weekly seminar time will focus on the student’s reflections as a participant observer and on the ethical issues that commonly arise in health care. Students are expected to have basic background knowledge of common questions in bioethics and methods of analyzing those questions.

This program typically places students in such clinical services as: Neonatal ICU, HIV/AIDS Clinic, Cancer Center, Pediatric ICU, Pastoral Care, Palliative Care, Teen and Young Adult Center, Emergency Department, Organ Transplant, Advanced Heart Failure Program, Surgical/Trauma ICU, Medical ICU, and the Neurancy Neurological ICU. Each student is assigned a clinical mentor who is responsible for exposing the student to the practices and ethical problems of their field.

The course is led by Mary Faith Marshall, Director of the Center for Health Humanities and Ethics. The weekly seminar focuses on topics that transcend the borders of the different internship placements, such as: “doing” ethics in a clinical setting; the patient/surrogate decision maker experience; moral understandings in the clinical setting, the sociology of the modern hospital and clinical training; and the pragmatics of ethics and moral distress case consultation. Because the course is run as a seminar we look for applicants who can reliably make thoughtful contributions to class discussion.

Each student is required to thoroughly analyze the assigned readings, participate actively in class, and complete a research project focusing on a problem or issue presented during their internship.

We are now accepting applications for fall 2021. Preference will be given to graduating 4th years who are minoring in bioethics, doing an interdisciplinary major, or who have done well in one or more upper level bioethics electives. It is rare for 3rd years to gain admission; such students need to present special circumstances.

Entrance to this internship program is by application only. Because course enrollment is limited traditionally with more applicants than can be accommodated, your acceptance in the course means that someone else has been denied access. Do not apply unless you are committed to taking the course.

If you wish to apply, compose your application in an email and send it directly to Mary Faith Marshall at mfm@hscmail.mcc.virginia.edu and Carrie Gumm at  CG2B@hscmail.mcc.virginia.edu with “Bioethics Internship Seminar Application” and your last name in the subject line. Due date for applications is generally a couple of weeks before course registration opens. We hope to finalize enrollment less than a week later so that you will know your status before registration begins.

Please include the following in your email application:
1) Name, e-mail, year, major/minor

2) Relevant courses (from which professors) you have taken that helped prepare you for this experience – e.g., in philosophical and/or religious ethics, political philosophy, medical anthropology, bioethics, human biology. List the grades that you received in these courses.

3) Why you wish to take this course. How do you see it fitting into your academic and/or career plans?

Preference will be given to students with a strong interest in bioethics and in pursuing a health-related career, e.g., nursing, public health, medicine, health law, etc. Premed drones who are solely interested in buffing their resumes and getting into medical school, are not encouraged to apply.

4) A writing sample.

4) Your top 3 preferences for placement from the following list of likely clinical units.

  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
  • Pediatric ICU
  • Medical ICU
  • HIV/AIDS Clinic
  • Teen and Young Adult Health Center
  • Palliative Care
  • Organ Transplant Service
  • Emergency Department
  • Cancer Center
  • Pastoral Care
  • Surgical/Trauma, ICU
  • Neurancy Neurological ICU