Mini Bioethics Academy

 Center for Bioethics Mini Bioethics Academy: Engage with faculty to learn about and foster discussion on complex, thought-provoking bioethical issues facing society. Click on image to register. Twice a year, the Center for Bioethics hosts Mini Bioethics Academy (MBA), a three-evening education series held on the University of Minnesota campus which helps the public understand bioethical challenges in today’s society. The Center’s faculty members engage the public in discussions about complex, thought-provoking bioethical issues making headlines today. Past topics have included genetic testing and counseling, reproductive technologies, gun policies, organ transplantation, end-of-life care, managed care, long term care, research ethics, and professional ethics. Mini Bioethics Academy is open to anyone interested in learning more about bioethics. 


MBA Past events

Headshot of Deb DeBruin, PhD
Wednesday, September 25, 2019 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm

Infectious disease epidemics, natural disasters and terrorist attacks can overwhelm existing public health and healthcare systems. These crises raise a complicated array of ethical issues, from rationing scarce resources to protecting vulnerable community members to providing appropriate supports to health professionals. As part of a national effort, health departments and health care organizations are tasked with developing plans to enable them to respond appropriately to these types of crises. A critical part of that planning effort is the development of guidance for managing the ethical challenges that arise in these emergencies. This presentation provides background on public health crisis planning, describes the need for ethics guidance, discusses the fundamental ethical values that should guide crisis planning and response; and identifies some ways to implement ethical guidance in the challenging context of mass casualty incidents.

Speaker: Debra DeBruin, PhD

Headshot of Ed Ratner, MD
Wednesday, September 18, 2019 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm


Discussions of bioethics typically focus on care in the hospital, while ethical conflicts occur in all settings.  For families and community-based organizations, there are frequent ethical conflicts in home-based health care.  These include: whether a frail or disabled person can return or remain at home, whether driving or other activities should be permitted and who is responsible for providing needed care.  This presentation offers some basic principles and approaches to ethical issues in home care.  Those attending will be asked to discuss a number of actual cases. This seminar is useful to families providing elder care and health care professionals in all settings.

Speaker: Edward Ratner, MD

Photo of Bonnie LeRoy, MS, CGC holding a tablet and smiling
Wednesday, September 11, 2019 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm

What can genetic testing tell us? Do we learn different information from clinical testing vs. direct to consumer testing? Do we know what happens to our information? What are the risks and benefits? Not all genetic testing is the same and not everyone can benefit. There are risks associated with genetic testing and there are benefits but informed consent remains a challenge. Moreover, our underlying beliefs about what our genes are and what genetic information can tell us, further complicates testing.  In this presentation, the speaker discusses different types of testing, the challenges with consent for testing, and who benefits from testing.

Speaker: Bonnie LeRoy, MS, CGC

Wednesday, May 8, 2019 - 6:30pm
MBA Header We are in the midst of the worst measles epidemic since it was declared to be eradicated in 2000.  There is greater vaccine hesitancy and refusal among parents, namely due to a perception that the risk of vaccine preventable diseases is low and that there are significant risks associated with vaccines.  Despite data to support the safety and efficacy of vaccines, there remains a small but vocal community of activists opposed to mandatory childhood vaccination. Dr. Jennifer Needle addresses how these misperceptions came to be, the impact they are having on public health today, and address two key ethical questions: 1) do parents have a moral duty to vaccinate their children and 2) what is the appropriate response from the medical community regarding parents who refuse to vaccinate their children?

Speaker: Jennifer Needle, MD, MPH | Assistant Professor, Center for Bioethics, University of Minnesota

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Wednesday, May 1, 2019 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm

Health researchers have studied “stem cell tourism” to clinics in countries such as China, India, Mexico, Thailand, and the Ukraine but more recently, studies have found hundreds of clinics here in the U.S. selling unapproved and unproven stem cell interventions. Many of these clinics do not sell FDA-approved stem cell products or have credible  evidence supporting their marketing claims.  This direct-to-consumer approach to selling unproven and unlicensed cell-based products prompts troubling concerns about patient safety, the manipulation of hope in advertising, and the gap between the current state of stem cell research and the purported therapies these clinics market. In this talk, the speaker describes the U.S. direct-to-consumer marketplace for stem cell interventions and explore ethical issues related to the increase in U.S. clinics selling stem cell treatments. The presentation also covers regulation of stem cell-based products, FDA enforcement activity, and lawsuits filed by former patients of U.S. stem cell clinics. 

Speaker:  Leigh Turner, PhD, Associate Professor, Center for Bioethics, Associate Professor, Dept of Pharmaceutical Care & Health Systems, Associate Professor, School of Public Health

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm

We know that what impacts health lies largely outside of normal healthcare delivery. We call these the negative social determinants of health. One in six people with low incomes need legal help to overcome these determinants and improve their health. Restoring food stamps when wrongfully denied to a diabetic can eliminate the need for a kidney transplant. Demanding that a landlord remove mold from substandard housing can reduce the need for emergency asthma care. Such interventions can also reduce overall healthcare costs. Healthcare Legal Partnerships exist to meet needs like these by adding lawyers to the healthcare team in various settings. The University of Minnesota helped pioneer this model of care in the 1990s. The HLP Collaborative in Minnesota was founded by nursing educator Dr. Eileen Weber, who is also an attorney, so HLPs in our region can share best practices and increase awareness, education and outreach of this effective interprofessional care model. Her presentation offers HLP strategies and resources to help those who work to advance health equity.

Upper Midwest Healthcare Legal Partnership Learning Collaborative Report

Speaker: Eileen Weber, DNP, JD, BSN, PHN, RN, Clinical Associate Professor, Population Health and Systems Cooperative

Tuesday, February 6, 2018 - 6:00pm
Opioid Addiction in America
This presentation identified ways that inter-professional community-engaged research, scholarship, and practice can be useful in combating opioid use disorder. Participants learned to articulate the benefits of interprofessional community coalitions in mobilizing against opioid use disorder, explain the goals of treatment courts and key components of drug courts in addressing opioid use disorder and describe multiple methods of engaging with health care systems and professionals to improve care for patients with opioid use disorder. Dr. Palombi was followed by a personal story of addiction. Most discussions of the opioid crisis tend to create a gap between “addicts” who are most likely to die of overdose, and “non-addicts” who are just an accident away from opioid addiction. Matthew F. Filner is a professor of political science who discussed how and why his serious accident turned into opioid addiction.

Speakers: Laura Palombi, Pharm.D., MPH, MAT, College of Pharmacy, University of Minnesota Duluth; Matthew Filner, Political Science, Metropolitan State University 


Tuesday, January 30, 2018 - 6:00pm
Opioid Addiction in America
Sarah Gollust, PhD discussed what is known about public perceptions of the opioid crisis and particularly what policy solutions Americans find acceptable. She also discussed the roles of the media in reinforcing certain policy narratives and the important role of stigmatizing attitudes toward opioid users in beliefs about the crisis and in considerations of its future trajectory.

Speaker: Sarah Gollust, PhD Associate Professor, Division of Health Policy and Management, School of Public Health; Affiliate Faculty, Center for Bioethics, University of Minnesota

Tuesday, January 23, 2018 - 6:00pm
Opioid Addiction in America
How did the opioid epidemic become a major killer in Minnesota? More Minnesotans die from opioid overdoses than in traffic accidents! In this healthiest of states, some Minnesota groups have the highest rates of opioid overdose deaths in the nation.  Attendees engaged in a lively discussion of how Minnesota got to this point (national and state trends) and learned what opioids and emerging synthetics are driving the increases in deaths, addiction, and newborns needing help.  

Speaker: Dana Farley, Minnesota Dept. of Health Alcohol and Drug Prevention Policy Director


Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - 6:00pm
Food Justice and Bioethics
The cofounders of Appetite For Change, a nonprofit organization based in North Minneapolis [told] their stories of how they came to the work of Food Justice. Michelle, a recovering Public Defender with a Bioethics degree and Princess, a refugee from Chicago and Teacher [spoke] about the mission of Appetite For Change: using food as a tool for building health, wealth and social change. They [explored] the various ethics issues that arise in their work and how the field of Bioethics can be of service to, and inform, the work of food justice activists worldwide. 
Speakers: Michelle Horovitz, JD; Princess Titus, Appetite for Change