September 10, 2012
In the spirit of Georgia State University's interdisciplinary Second Century Initiative, two faculty members are collaborating across specialties — not only across campus, but on a national stage.
Law professor Paul Lombardo has been a senior advisor to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues since early 2011. This spring, Lisa Lee, an adjunct faculty member teaching ethics in the Institute of Public Health and former chief science officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , was appointed to the commission as its executive director.
"We immediately got together and talked about the kind of thing that would be on the agenda," Lombardo says of Lee. "We teach in the same area from very different perspectives; that's usually a recipe for something that's going to be fascinating."
The commission meets quarterly and comprises a mix of top-of-their-field professionals, the nation's leaders in science, medicine, ethics, religion, law and engineering.
Using the varied expertise of its members and staff, the commission examines the "big picture" issues of bioethics. Most recently, it issued a report that evaluated regulations for biomedical research involving human volunteers. A report on the issues of privacy that will arise in the wake of whole-genome sequencing will be released in December.
"Before [joining the commission in] April, I had watched the commission from afar and had admired how its members identify and address issues that arise from advances in medicine, science and technology," Lee says. "These are issues that have the capacity to touch each of our lives in very personal ways."
Lee and Lombardo met Vice President Joe Biden at a reception during a recent commission meeting in Washington, D.C. Biden demonstrated great interest and insight into the bioethical questions the commission is studying, Lombardo says.
"What's going on at the commission is not just speculative," Lombardo says. " It's changing how we think about healthcare and individual issues of privacy — these are the kinds of issues that students get excited about."
Often, Lombardo and Lee's work with the commission will find its way into their lectures. As part of GSU Law's Center for Law, Health and Society, Lombardo teaches courses on mental health, bioethics and genetics, pulling in experts from the Institute of Public Health and other related centers. All of these cross-disciplinary classes are open to students in other schools of the university.
"There are so many opportunities for public health and law to collaborate," Lee says. "The nexus of ethics, law and the public is a place where great good can be done."
Kathleen Poe Ross