43 Upper School students gathered virtually for the fifth annual RCDS Ethics Project, an interdisciplinary faculty-led retreat aimed at expanding students’ knowledge and analytical skills around matters pertaining to ethical awareness and active, purpose-driven engagement. This year’s retreat examined the ethics behind cutting edge medicine and medical technology. Students worked together to develop the ability to navigate complex ethical medical dilemmas through creating and practicing models for effective decision making. They looked at case studies involving COVID-19, as well other timely cases in medical ethics, and they examined the in-the-moment decisions researchers, doctors, government leaders, and others need to make and the various ethical considerations that go into each and every decision. The retreat’s case studies included organ transplant allocation, genome editing in embryos (through CRISPR technology), COVID-19 vaccine development and trials, and protesting during a pandemic. Students’ discussions were framed by the following guiding questions:
- Who are the various stakeholders and constituencies?
- What are the concerns of each stakeholder and constituency?
- What are the responsibilities of each stakeholder and constituency?
- What are the "competing goods"?
- What does "do no harm" mean in this context?
Reflecting on the program, Jenny Heath, Grade 11 Dean and Upper School English Teacher, shared, “The Ethics Project is about sparking curiosity, asking questions, and diving into the complex and tricky issues that are ubiquitous in our world. In addition to looking at the multiple perspectives that arise in ethically challenging situations, students learn how various fields and disciplines come together in real life. This year, we examined how public health and civil liberties and civil rights—topics we tend to view as humanities—intersect with the science of vaccine development and contact tracing. I love getting to be a learner alongside the students!”
2020 Ethics Project Faculty
Cathie Bischoff, STEAM Coordinator; US Science Teacher
Jennifer Doran, US & MS Science Teacher
Clemmie Everett, Grade 9 Dean; US Humanities Teacher
Jenny Heath, Grade 11 Dean; US English Teacher
Charles Sliter, US Humanities Teacher
Charaun Wills, Science Department Chair; US Science Teacher
2020 Guest Speakers
Andres Colubri, Ph.D.
Dr. Andres Colubri is a scientist with experience in computational biology, machine learning, and data visualization. His research focuses on the integration of mathematical modeling, visual computing, and mobile technologies to create novel methods and tools with impact in infectious disease research, response, and education. He received his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the Universidad Nacional del Sur in Argentina and his M.F.A. in Design Media Arts from the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Colubri was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago and he is currently a computational scientist at the Broad Institute and a research associate at Harvard University. He recently co-authored the op-ed Contact tracing technology must protect people from discrimination as well as disease.
Georges C. Benjamin, M.D.
Dr. Georges Benjamin is Executive Director of the American Public Health Association. He is a graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois College of Medicine. Dr. Benjamin is board-certified in internal medicine and a fellow of the American College of Physicians, a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, a fellow emeritus of the American College of Emergency Physicians and an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Public Health. View Dr. Benjamin’s recent TED talk titled “The Secret Weapon Against Pandemics.”
Amy Farhenkopf, M.D., M.P.H.
Dr. Amy Farhenkopf is both a doctor and a business executive in the healthcare field. She is currently the president of HSS Heath (Hospital for Special Surgery), and she previously held a leadership role in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Dr. Farhenkopf spoke with students about the ethical considerations that went into HSS's choice to suspend its regular operations and shift to providing care for some of NYC’s most critical COVID-19 patients.
Cynthia Luo, RCDS Class of 2014
Cynthia graduated from RCDS in 2014 and completed her undergraduate studies at Harvard University where she majored in Molecular Biology and English. She is currently a medical student at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and volunteers at East Harlem Health Outreach Partnership (EHHOP).