MacLean Center wins prestigious Cornerstone Award

September 24, 2013

The University of Chicago Medicine's MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics has been awarded the prestigious Cornerstone Award from the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities for "outstanding contributions from an institution that has helped shape the direction of the fields of bioethics and/or medical humanities."

The MacLean Center, founded and directed by Mark Siegler, MD, the Lindy Bergman Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine and Surgery, is the first university program to receive this award for contributions to the field of bioethics.

"Under the leadership of its pioneering founder, Dr. Siegler, the MacLean Center has made an enduring imprint on our field, notably shaping how we conceive of and perform clinical ethics consultation," said Joseph J. Fins, MD, MACP, president of American Society of Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH). "This legacy, and the enduring contributions of MacLean's many trainees and fellows, places all of us in the debt of this great center of bioethics scholarship and practice."

Only three other institutions have won the Cornerstone Award: the Hastings Center, the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, and the Institute for Medical Humanities at Galveston, Texas.

Founded in 1983, the MacLean Center is one of the oldest bioethics programs and is the first to offer a program in "clinical ethics." Building on the model of Sir William Osler and Alvan Feinstein, MD, a distinguished University of Chicago alumnus, the center changed theoretical medical ethics to practical clinical ethics by bringing ethics to the bedside.

Clinical medical ethics is a field that examines the routine, everyday ethical issues that arise in encounters among patients, doctors, nurses, allied health workers and health care institutions. The goal of clinical ethics is to improve patient care and outcomes. It does this by focusing on doctor-patient communication and respect for patient preferences.

The MacLean Center is currently the largest clinical medical ethics program in the world, having trained more than 300 physicians and other health professionals -- many of whom hold professorships, endowed chairs and directorships of ethics programs in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

"We're very honored to be recognized by the ASBH for the pioneering work we've done since the early 1970s to create the field of clinical ethics as a complement to traditional bioethics," said Siegler. "Clinical ethics transformed the field of bioethics from an analytic policy movement to a vibrant clinical approach that doctors, nurses and hospitals now apply daily to improve the care of patients."

The ASBH, the leading bioethics organization in the world, recognized the MacLean Center at the University of Chicago for:

  • A superb interdisciplinary faculty that now includes more than 40 university representatives from the biological sciences, the social sciences, humanities, the law school, the business school and the divinity school.
  • An outstanding team of associate directors: Lainie Ross, MD, PhD (Pediatrics), Peter Angelos, MD, PhD (Surgery), Daniel Sulmasy, MD, PhD (Medicine) and Marshall Chin, MD, MPH (Medicine).
  • A fellowship program in clinical medical ethics that started in 1981 and has graduated 320 fellows, many of whom now hold endowed university professorships and direct clinical ethics programs in the U.S., Canada, Europe and China.
  • A distinguished record of research and publication that includes more than 150 books written by former and current faculty and fellows. The center also hosts and provides editorial leadership for the journal Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, one of the most important international journals in the field.
  • One of the world's first ethics consultation services and important contributions to the field of ethics consultations through publications and fellowship training.
  • A model program of interdisciplinary work at the University of Chicago that includes annual ethics conferences and, for 32 consecutive years, an annual university-wide faculty seminar series.

The award will be presented at the ASBH's 2013 annual meeting in Atlanta, Ga., on October 25, 2013.

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