NEOMED Bioethics Conference: A Student Perspective

Julie Aultman, Ph.D., professor of family and community medicine, along with the NEOMED Bioethics Club and Philip Jenkinson, a program coordinator in the College of Graduate Studies, organized a great showing of ethical concerns Saturday, April 28, with the seventh annual Medical Ethics and Humanities Conference. Presenters and attendees from NEOMED, Kent State University, Stark State University and the professional community came together to discuss ethical meaning and changing ideals in medicine. The conference put an emphasis on providing an opportunity for students to present—especially students working on ethics-related projects.  

Treating the Patient as a Person

Notably, many presentations addressed how to build medical understanding and awareness of people’s differing narratives, especially compared with our understanding of how medical treatment works.

The keynote speaker, Isaac Baez, M.D., M.P.H., is the engagement and inclusion coordinator for Stark County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery. Dr. Baez discussed the topic of cultural complexity, noting that this is not as simple as knowing facts about a culture and attempting to apply them to all its members, but rather an open conversation with patients. Our preconceived biases should not create a sense of complacency about patients—a mistake that leads some medical professionals to forget to defer to patients about their own culture. Quality cultural understanding comes with a willingness to learn and a drive to allow patients to be their own cultural voice. All of that leads to better healthcare, said Dr. Baez.

Exorcism and More: Developing Cultural Understanding

Other presentations provided additional awareness of group-specific issues. Emma Coleman, a pharmacy student at NEOMED, presented on the involvement of exorcism with medicine. Importantly, exorcism is required by the Catholic Church to be done with patient consent and only after a medical explanation has been ruled out by healthcare professionals.

This is an area where cultural understanding would allow a physician to work with patients considering religious-based therapies.

My own presentation focused on orphan-specific health concerns. This is a matter particularly close to me, since I was adopted from Romania. Former orphans face high mental and physical health concerns that should be acknowledged when taking care of a patient from that situation. I hoped to build more awareness that when dealing with an adoptee in a secure family environment, it is still important to understand their risks and prior situation.

Regardless of our backgrounds or beliefs, we need to maintain an openness to the patient narrative, and how it impacts their care.

 –Kyle Bertea, a second-year College of Medicine student, contributed this report.

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