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Bioethics Internship

Applications Not Being Accepted At This Time

The overarching goal of the Bioethics Initiative for Equity in Health Care and Research is to develop a diverse, multidisciplinary workforce capable of translating research findings into evidence-based policies and practices for improving health care and research equity among racial and ethnic populations in Texas--and in keeping with the overall mission of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center--in the nation and in the world. This initiative is designed to become a long-standing program of MD Anderson.

The project aims:

  • to develop the Bioethics Initiative for Equity in Health Care and Research, which is dedicated to the training of individuals from racial or ethnic minorities in bioethics to address the underrepresentation of minorities in clinical trials,
  • to increase the number of and to advance women and historically underrepresented ethnic and racial groups in the bioethics academic enterprise, and
  • to develop and use nontraditional methods to build trust in the health care system to increase racial and ethnic participation in clinical trials.

The project is a joint effort at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center between researchers in the Department of Health Disparities Research and the Section for Integrated Ethics in Cancer Care in the Department of Critical Care.

Internship Criteria

  • Training in a discipline compatible with basic scientific, clinical, or behavioral research, or health care ethics.
  • Potential contribution to the diversity of the Bioethics Initiative for Equity in Health Care and Research. Candidates who are African American, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, Alaskan Native, or from other underrepresented racial and ethnic groups are encouraged to apply.
  • Completion of a degree compatible with the goals of the Bioethics Initiative for Equity in Health Care and Research from an accredited institution. (A bachelor’s degree is required; a master's degree is preferred.)
  • Fit with the research program of the Bioethics Initiative for Equity in Health Care and Research.
  • Previous clinical and/or clinical research experience (abstracts, publications, awards) preferred.
  • Expressed interest in a career in multidisciplinary clinical research or health care ethics.
  • Interest in studying health differences and disparities or health in historically underserved populations.

Course Description

The bioethics course that is part of the bioethics internship is an introduction to the field of bioethics, with a primary focus on its application in the clinical setting. It is not possible to discuss each topic exhaustively in one semester.  Introducing students to some of the more common topics of discussion, debate, and practice equips them with a basic knowledge and allows students to continue with further study or training.

In this didactic course, students learn to identify and use major ethical theories (e.g., teleology/deontology); central moral principles (e.g., respect for autonomy); and approaches to problem solving and decision-making (e.g., principlism, ethics of care, casuistry). This background knowledge will be used in the analysis of ethical problems in the health care field. Topics will be addressed through lecture/presentation, videos, and handouts. Class discussions will be based on the readings, hypothetical and real clinical cases and student responses.

Course Requirements

Required Text: Jonsen, A. Bioethics Beyond the Headlines: Who Lives? Who Dies? Who Decides? Landham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005.

Weekly Readings: Class presentations and discussions will be linked to assigned reading. Potential reading and assignment topics: 

  • Introduction to clinical ethics
  • History and theories
  • Patient/physician (caregiver) relationship
  • Culture, communication, compassion
  • Autonomy, informed consent and truth-telling
  • Genetics and eugenics
  • Cloning and stem cell research
  • Medical decision-making at the end of life
  • Definition of death, surrogate decision-making and medical futility
  • Euthanasia and patient-assisted suicide
  • Advance directives and palliative and hospice care
  • Medical research on humans
  • Research history and basics
  • Allocating scarce resources

Case Study: Students will be given a case to analyze based on what has been discussed in class. Students will be asked to identify the ethical issues present in the case and to make recommendations on how to resolve the dilemma. This paper should be three to four pages.

Project: Interns will be assigned to work with a member of the MD Anderson faculty on a research project that fits with the student’s interests and background. The intern will be expected to produce a publishable paper that addresses the ethical implications of the broader research topic studied.

Final: The final will be an in-class presentation, during which the intern will discuss his or her clinical experience and research project.

Clinical Observation

Interns must observe in the clinical setting with a clinical ethicist, Integrated Ethics faculty member, or Ethics Consultation Committee member. Integrated Ethics and clinical observation hours total 15% of time (72 hours). Observation opportunities include:

  • Intensive care unit (ICU) medical rounds, ICU multidisciplinary rounds, hospitalist multidisciplinary rounds
  • Institutional Review Board (IRB) scientific studies and behavioral studies
  • Stem cell transplant nursing ethics and journal club, lymphoma nursing ethics and journal club, Breast Medical Oncology Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) Ethics
  • Clinical Cancer Genetics Multidisciplinary Patient Conference -- Breast cancer and atypical breast hyperplasia or gastrointestinal cancer
  • Other possible rotations: pediatrics, palliative care and thoracic medicine

Integrated Ethics faculty will arrange for interns to spend 2-4 hours observing from a specific discipline in the following units:

Integrated Ethics Activities

  • Introduction to health care ethics class
  • Difficult case review
  • Psychosocial journal club for health care, spirituality and ethics
  • Guest speakers
  • Ethics Grand Rounds
  • Clinical Ethics Consultation Committee

How to Apply

Applications for the Bioethics Initiative internship are accepted through MD Anderson’s DISCOVER System. Access to this system requires a password that is generated when the applicant creates an account on the DISCOVER System.

To request creation of an account, please contact Grace Abdulmassih at 713-563-1300 or gabdulmassih@mdanderson.org. A curriculum vitae or résumé is required.  

For information about applying, please contact Grace Abdulmassih at 713-563-1300 or gabdulmassih@mdanderson.org.

For information about the internship, please contact Grace Abdulmassih at 713-563-1300 or gabdulmassih@mdanderson.org.

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, disability or veteran status, except where such distinction is required by law.  All positions at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center are security sensitive and subject to examination of criminal history record information.


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center