Thursday, June 7, 2007

Living the Issue: Scientist-Bioethicists | Living the Issue: By Beryl Lieff Benderly, Science Careers: Living the Issue
The relationship between career and family is often discussed in terms of conflict, especially when a parent faces a major challenge such as the severe illness of a child. But for biophysicist Adil Shamoo, a family health crisis became the catalyst for a new career.

...the ethics of research with human subjects is 'still a patchwork and needs more reform.' This need means opportunities for scientists with research experience to contribute to the progress of a very important field, [Adil] Shamoo believes. Many people now working in bioethics have backgrounds in law or philosophy and lack the deep understanding and 'realistic approach' that scientists bring to the issues. 'You're in the trenches. ... You've lived the issues, ... in my case, for a quarter of a century. You have a better feel than somebody who is just a Ph.D. in bioethics or philosophy studying [research]. ... I write differently [from nonscientists], I think differently, and I'm an applied [ethics] researcher. I am not a philosopher.'

Shamoo's tenured professorship provided a secure base for making his career change, but the field offers many employment opportunities for scientists with knowledge of bioethics or research integrity. 'They could be in a university department of bioethics, ... clinical trial offices, hospitals, in human-subject protection, in research integrity.'

People with 'a real scientific background' can prepare for this work 'in many different ways,' Shamoo says. One is to get a master's degree in bioethics at one of the "many, many programs, even distant-learning programs." Another route is a certificate program, such as one that Shamoo recently helped organize at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. In addition, "one can self-teach, [depending] on how independent they are," or "do a postdoc in bioethics. You get a fellowship to basically convert yourself ... and [work with] an established figure on a project. ... By working on an area, in an apprenticeship program for a year or two, you learn [the field]."

Not necessarily my view, but there it is.

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