Promoting ethics and values in health care will be the focus of a Biomedical Ethics Conference April 13-16 at The University of Texas-Pan American, where medical professionals and the public can join in the discussion of these important issues that have drawn attention both locally and nationally.
The conference will be hosted by the Pan American Collaboration for Ethics (PACE) under the College of Arts and Humanities, in conjunction with the College of Health Sciences and Human Services and the College of Science and Engineering. Sponsors for the event are UTPA, Mission Regional Medical Center, Howard Hughs Medical Institute and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance (DHR). DHR presented UTPA a title sponsorship check for $20,000 to support the Biomedical Ethics Conference.
During this four-day conference, there will be five keynote speakers: Dr. Ira Kodner, Solon and Bettie Gershman Professor of Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Mo.; Dr. Lawrence Gelman, CEO of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance; Michael Lewis, clinical research manager at Washington University School of Medicine; Dr. Linda Pullan, Pullan Consulting, Biotech Business Development; and Dr. Stuart Yoak, executive officer, Washington University Center for the Study of Ethics and Human Values.
Speakers will facilitate discussion on topics such as ethics and aging, ethical issues in medical education and training, end of life issues, ethics of health care economics, moral right to access medical care, ethics in home health care, nursing ethics and ethical governance in medicine.In addition, speakers will work closely with students in classrooms and labs.
A conference reception on April 14 will also provide attendees an opportunity to speak with health care professionals and researchers.
Dr. Cynthia Jones, associate professor of philosophy and lead conference organizer, believes that because the ethics center is interdisciplinary in its approach, working with different colleges in hosting conferences is important.
"We work with professional ethics in all fields," Jones said. "Ethical decisions are made in every profession such as journalism, medicine and business. Since we're an interdisciplinary center, we focus on every college so that professional ethics can be worked into every curriculum."
According to Jones, the purpose of this year's Biomedical Ethics Conference is to educate those in attendance on the important ethical issues in health care, biomedical research and health care professionals training.
"We hope to bring the medical community and the community at large into a discussion about health care in the country and health care in McAllen since our area has been targeted as problematic," Jones said.
Jones' reference is to a 2009 article, "The Cost Conundrum," in the New Yorker by physician and author Atul Gawande, M.D. in which he wrote about the Rio Grande Valley McAllen medical system having the highest Medicare spending in the nation.
The goal of this conference, Jones said, is to spread an understanding about health care education and its complexities and to expose and open the discussion on the different views of ethical practices in medicine and biomedical research.
"Even if you are not planning on a profession in health care, these medical issues and concerns still pertain to you as everyone is a consumer of the health care industry," Jones said. "This industry deals with people when they are at their most vulnerable, so it's important to know what is ethical and what to expect from health care providers."
Cardenas said the South Texas region has a long history of being underserved and believes that there are a large number of confounding factors at play in practicing medicine in the Valley, for example, a unique culture, endemic diseases like diabetes and a high poverty rate.
"What we hope everyone takes away from the conference is a more enlightened approach on how to deliver high quality health care in an at-risk area such as ours and to learn from this conference things that they can take back to their own communities," Cardenas said.
Jones stressed that PACE does not support any particular view point, but is primarily there to facilitate discussion. Her hope is that the university will engage with the community on this issue that concerns everyone.
This event is free and open to all students, faculty, staff, medical professionals, and the community. It will be held at the UTPA Ballroom.
For more information on the Biomedical Conference, visit www.utpa.edu/pace or call 956/388-8081.