Center History

Andrew Hunt photo

Founding

With support of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, in 1977 the Medical Humanities Program hired several new faculty who developed required ethics curricula in the Colleges of Human Medicine, Osteopathic Medicine, Nursing, and Veterinary Medicine. Supported at the time by six different colleges, the program had the additional advantage of functioning as a cross-university resource with an interdisciplinary approach.

Read an interview with Dr. Hunt about the formation of the Medical Humanities Program.

Howard Brody photo

Evolving

When Dr. Hunt retired in 1985, Howard Brody, MD, PhD, assumed the helm. In 1988 the program was granted "Center" status, and renamed the Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences (CEHLS) to mark its involvement in disciplines beyond biomedicine. 

Under Dr. Brody’s 15-year guidance, CEHLS expanded its identity, its faculty, and its scope. The Center’s mission statement opens with the words, "committed to supporting reflective practice in health care and in science, by bringing to these fields the resources of ethics and humanities."

The discipline of medical ethics and humanities evolved from those seminal ethical issues associated with the doctor-patient relationship, life-extending technologies, and the ethical treatment of human subjects to include micro/macro level social policy questions such as: What economic issues most affect health care? How can physicians best deliver health care in a pluralistic society? How can physicians contain costs while preserving a trusting relationship with their patients? And legal questions as well: Who should make medical decisions for minors? What should be the relationship between industry and medicine? Notably, issues that had the appearance of exotic science fiction in the 1970s, such as cloning, and mapping the human genome, are today’s twenty-first century realities. These and other developments in medicine and health introduce ever-more challenging questions for bioethics consideration.

Read Dr. Brody's farewell article, published in the Medical Humanities Report; Volume 28, No. 1, Summer 2006.

Tom Tomlinson photo

Today

In 2000, Tom Tomlinson, PhD, became the Center’s Director. He served as Director until August 2018, and under his guidance the Center’s core faculty members directed their ongoing attention to understanding varied aspects of the human condition including chronic illness, birthing, aging, disability, international research ethics, spirituality, and neuroethics, to name only a few.

To address the rapidly expanding bioethics agenda, and also to meet its many teaching responsibilities, CEHLS highly values the collaborative support from within as well as outside of the University.

Center Professor Leonard Fleck, PhD, who has been with the unit since 1985, became Acting Director in August 2018. Read a message from Dr. Fleck.