From its origins as a small group of Johns Hopkins University scholars from diverse fields sharing a fascination with and appreciation for the ethics of health care and science, the Berman Institute of Bioethics has grown into a global leader that helps shape ethical policy and practices for the betterment of people around the world. To reflect upon, celebrate, and call attention to this vitally important work, the Berman Institute will mark the 25th anniversary of its 1995 founding with a yearlong series of academic and institutional events.
"With the creation of the Berman Institute 25 years ago, Johns Hopkins formally recognized how important it is for scholars to think systemically and critically about the ethics of health care, public health, and biomedical and behavioral research," Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels said. "A truly interdisciplinary center, the institute brings together expertise from across the university to collaborate and contribute substantially to the world of ideas that advance society and improve people's lives."
Planned anniversary events include a film series that will feature the screening of a documentary film once a month from March through May, each followed by a panel discussion featuring filmmakers and relevant bioethics experts. In April, a signature New York City event will focus on the Netflix documentary series on gene editing technologies, "Unnatural Selection," with a screening of short clips from the series followed by a conversation and reception with the director, filmmaker, and science and bioethics experts. The institute will observe Bioethics Month 2020 in May, with a performance by Theater of War, as well as other events still being finalized. In addition, existing programs like the BI Seminar Series and Ethics for Lunch will bear a 25th anniversary imprint.
"This yearlong celebration provides a rare opportunity to reflect upon, celebrate, and call attention to the vitally important work and leadership in bioethics from the Berman Institute over the past quarter-century and as we look to the future," said Jeffrey P. Kahn, the institute's director.
As the field of bioethics has grown from its roots in medical ethics and philosophy, the Berman Institute's faculty led the expansion first into the realm of public health and subsequently into a broad range of interdisciplinary work, with a wide range of real-world applications. Today, bioethics is an integral part not only of clinical medical practice and public health, but also science, research, policymaking, and virtually every area where new biomedical and technological innovations raise important ethical and policy issues.
The Berman Institute of Bioethics' origins date to a faculty interest group under the guidance of founder Ruth Faden. With the support of Morris Offit, chair of the university's board of trustees from 1990 to 1996, the institute was formally established in 1995.
"An independent bioethics institute was a natural fit bringing together all the issues Johns Hopkins engages with, from medicine, public health, and arts and sciences," Offit said. "The Berman Institute's extraordinary faculty complements the breadth of Hopkins' work across these different divisions. Johns Hopkins was the ideal place to get this work started and see it further flower."
Today the Berman Institute advances ethics-driven health care and promotes equitable and effective public health policies and practices. It guides ethically responsible development and use of new technologies and works toward ethical solutions to global sustainability challenges. And it educates and creates the next generation of leaders in the field of bioethics.
"Where is the Berman Institute headed next? Being a part of Johns Hopkins, it has to have a significant role in both clinical care and public health. It also has an important role in educating the public," said Alex Levi, chair of the institute's National Advisory Board. "With its leaders charting the course, the Berman Institute has its finger on the pulse of some of the most pressing challenges our species faces. That includes genetic engineering and newer areas, like artificial intelligence, climate change, and sustainability. The institute will remain on the cutting edge, helping shape conversation and policy going forward."
For full information about the Berman Institute's 25th anniversary, including an up-to-date schedule of events and a historical timeline, visit bioethics.jhu.edu/25years.