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2020 was a strange summer to start medical school. In order to help incoming students adjust, meet their peers, and learn about UNC School of Medicine, rising MS2 students created “Summer Seminars” based on a wide variety of topics. After a summer of successful seminars, the SOM decided to continue these student-led groups. This year, one of the seminars is: “Well, It’s Complicated: Exploring Medical Ethics at UNC,” co-led by Konan Beke, Celia Mizelle, and Cambray Smith.

“I participated in the Palliative Care Summer Seminar last year, which led to a year of involvement with palliative care. I thought it would be a great idea to help students interested in ethics get acclimated to the incredible resources at UNC prior to starting their first year,” says Cambray Smith, MD-PhD student and rising MS2. Cambray worked in biomedical ethics research at Mayo Clinic for 2 years prior to starting medical school at UNC, and she intends to incorporate ethics into her graduate research. Konan and Celia, rising MS2s, are the co-leaders of the School of Medicine’s Clinical Ethics Discussion Group (CEDG). They also serve as medical student representatives on the UNC Hospital Ethics Committee.

Eight students took the course, and the meetings were structured around the following topics: introduction to moral philosophy and ethics, clinical ethics and case discussion, conducting ethics research, and student-led projects on biomedical ethics topics. The group is also planning an in-person picnic near the end of the summer.

During one session, students discussed clinical ethics cases alongside faculty co-chair of the Ethics Committee Arlene Davis, and committee members Drs. Amy Bryant and Daniel Moseley.

“Everyone exercises ethical reasoning throughout their lives whether or not they have ever formally studied ethics. As future physicians, it is essential to understand the underpinnings of our ethical reasoning and its impact on patient care. The UNC SOM curriculum does a great job of incorporating such topics in our education, and we were excited to delve into it even more with such an engaged group of students,” says Konan.

The group’s goals are to introduce students to resources within the Department of Social Medicine, create a foundational appreciation and understanding of biomedical ethics, and to cultivate relationships among peers and student leaders.