Path of Distinction in Bioethics


The Path of Distinction in Bioethics (POD-B) awards distinction at graduation for SMPH students in the MD program who complete requirements demonstrating significant achievement in bioethics. The POD-B program provides students with opportunities for focused electives and selectives, clinical ethics observation, bioethics scholarship, and participation in a vibrant bioethics learning community. It serves as a foundation for service and research in ethics in one’s medical career.


Graduation with Distinction in Bioethics will be conferred upon SMPH medical students who, in addition to completing the requirements for the MD degree, satisfactorily meet the following requirements by April 15 of the year of graduation:

  • Good standing in the Medical School Program
  • Complete MED HIST (Medical History & Bioethics) 729, “Introduction to Bioethics”
    • Typically taken in either first or third semester of Phase 1
  • Complete MED HIST 730, “Topics in Bioethics”
      • Typically taken in second semester of Phase 1
  • Complete at least one approved Phase 3 selective.
    • Currently approved selectives include:
      • MED HIST 740, “Narrative Medicine and Public Health”
      • MED HIST 741, “Ethical Issues in Public Health”
      • MED HIST 742, “Ethical Issues in U.S. Health Care Policy”
      • MED HIST 745, “Clinical Ethics: Individual and Population Considerations”
      • MED HIST 746, “Race, Science, and Medicine: Past and Present”
      • MED HIST 750, “Outbreak!: Epidemics, Migration, and the Changing Contours of Global Health”
      • SURGERY 973, “Optimizing Value, Quality, and Safety in Health Care: A Case Study in Surgery”
      • OBS&GYN 917, “Race in American Obstetrics & Gynecology”
  • Participate in the Bioethics Learning Community (BLC)
    • Phase 1: Attend at least 3 BLC discussions
    • Phase 2: (co-)Lead a BLC discussion and attend at least one other BLC discussions.
    • Phase 3: Attend at least 3 BLC discussions
    • Phase 3: Attend the annual SMPH Bioethics Symposium and the Dean’s Luncheon preceding it.
    • Phase 3: Attend at least one Hospital Ethics Committee (HEC) meeting.
  • Complete a supervised scholarly Bioethics Research Paper by April 15 of graduation year. Bioethics Research Paper topics and plans (including the supervisor’s name and affiliation) must be approved by the POD-B Directors by January 15 of graduation year. The Bioethics Research Paper should be at least 2,500 words (excluding footnotes and references). Examples include but are not limited to:
    • Original bioethics research
    • A scholarly book review of a recently published bioethics book
    • An expanded version of a submission to the annual Norman Fost Award for the Best Medical Student Bioethics Essay contest

Note: Owing to limited faculty capacity, POD-B candidates should not expect to complete the required Bioethics Research Paper as a Shapiro Research Project with bioethics faculty. Students interested in using the Shapiro program to undertake the POD-B research project should connect with prospective Shapiro mentors early in Phase 1 to explore this possibility. If one might seek POD-B credit for a Shapiro project whose mentor is not a member of the Bioethics faculty, it is a good idea to run the project by the POD-B directors first.

  • Present the Bioethics Research Paper orally at the SMPH Bioethics Research Symposium (to be held each year on the Monday following the annual SMPH Bioethics Symposium).

Acceptance Criteria and Application Process

Students interested in the Path of Distinction in Bioethics are encouraged to participate in the program throughout medical school. Students are encouraged to submit a Notice of Intent through the online application system* during Phase 1. This will ensure they are added to messages, announcements and reminders that are sent to the Bioethics Learning Community. The completed research project and an application documenting the completion of all POD-B requirements must be submitted by April 15 of graduation year.

*The online application system is currently in construction; MD students will receive information about the application process via email either in late Spring 2022 or early Fall 2022.

Standard Application Timeline

Phase 1, Semester 1 • Review POD-B Requirements
• Decide if the Path of Distinction is right for you
Phase 1, Semester 2 • Submit a Notice of Intent to the POD-B program
Phase 3, by April 15 • Submit the Bioethics Research Paper and an application for the distinction

Standard Timeline for Completing Requirements

Phase 1, Semester 1 or 3 • Complete MED HIST 729
Phase 1, Semester 2 • Complete MED HIST 730
Phase 1-3 • Complete a supervised Bioethics Research Paper
• Participate in the required Bioethics Learning Community Activities
Phase 3 • Complete a POD-B-approved Selective
Phase 3 • Present Bioethics Research Paper at the SMPH Bioethics Research Symposium
Phase 3, by April 15 • Submit the Bioethics Research Paper and an application for the distinction

POD-B Faculty Co-Directors

Paul Kelleher, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Dept. of Medical History & Bioethics, SMPH

Karola Kreitmair, Ph.D., HEC-C., Assistant Professor, Dept. of Medical History & Bioethics, SMPH

Please do not hesitate to reach out to the POD-B directors (cc’ing both) with any questions.