After a distinguished career at the forefront of bioethics, Professor Eric Juengst, PhD, is set to embark on a well-deserved retirement. Although stepping back from his full-time role, Dr. Juengst will continue as an emeritus professor, maintaining the flexibility to attend lectures and participate in research at his discretion—a self-coined “open-ended sabbatical.”
Journey into Bioethics and UNC:
Dr. Juengst’s journey into bioethics began during his undergraduate years, which were marked by the advent of the first gene splicing techniques. As a biology major, he felt a strong inclination towards exploring the social implications of these groundbreaking scientific advancements. This interest led him to pursue a PhD in Philosophy at Georgetown’s Kennedy Center.
His subsequent career took him to various institutions, including the medical schools of the University of California, San Francisco, Penn State University, and Case Western Reserve University, where he taught medical ethics and conducted research on genetics and genomics. From 1990 to 1994 he served as the first director of the program for Ethical, Legal and Social implications of Human Genome Research at the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
In recognition of his contributions, Dr. Juengst was awarded the “Golden Eurydice Prize” in 2005 for leadership in advancing the study of ethical issues in science by the International Forum on Biophilosophy in Leuven, Belgium.
In 2010, Dr. Juengst seized the opportunity to establish the UNC Center for Bioethics, marking the beginning of an impactful chapter in his career.
Dr. Juengst’s extensive career included serving on various national committees and boards, such as the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee at NIH, the March of Dimes Ethics Committee, and the DNA Advisory Board for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. His research focused on ethical and conceptual challenges arising from advances in human genetics and biotechnology, with a particular emphasis on the ethical implications of personalized genomic medicine.
Proudest Achievements at the UNC Center for Bioethics:
Reflecting on his tenure at UNC, Dr. Juengst expressed immense pride in the eight exceptional core faculty recruited during his time. Their collective efforts propelled the UNC Center for Bioethics to national prominence, solidifying its status as one of the most robust centers in the country. Within North Carolina, Dr. Juengst also highlighted the Center’s involvement in establishing the Clinical Ethics Network of North Carolina, a platform facilitating discussions among hospital ethics committees across the state.
Equally important to Dr. Juengst are the postdocs, graduate students, and medical trainees that have been associated with the Center and their significant impacts in bioethics nationally and at UNC.
Dr. Juengst also served as the Principal Investigator in a series of gratifying NIH funded research collaborations, and he prizes the collegial relationships those have produced as well as the intellectual contributions they have been able to make to the field.
Dr. Juengst’s Hopes for the Center’s Future:
As Dr. Juengst looks towards the future, he expresses hope that the Center will maintain its sense of community as it continues to expand its core faculty and grow in new directions. Emphasizing the intellectual importance of open interdisciplinary communication, he underscored the value in sustaining the collegial social life that creates the energy for the collaborations that propel the Center’s endeavors.
As Dr. Eric Juengst enters a new chapter in his life, the UNC Center for Bioethics and the broader bioethics community will undoubtedly continue to benefit from his enduring legacy and commitment to advancing ethical considerations in the life sciences.