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Fisher Chairs NIH Continuous Special Emphasis Panel

January 20, 2022

Jill Fisher chaired the NIH Continuous Special Emphasis Panel on Societal and Ethical Issues in Research (SEIR) study section in June and December 2021 and will chair the March 2022 meeting. The Continuous Special Emphasis Panel on Societal and Ethical Issues in Research SEIR Study Section reviews applications focusing on ethical issues in human subjects’ research, clinical decision making, clinical trials, and recruitment. In addition, SEIR reviews historical, policy, and philosophical inquiry about the ethical, legal, and social implications of human genetics. For more information click here.

Walker, Fisher Publish Survey of U.S. Biomedical Researchers

January 7, 2022

Rebecca L. Walker, PhD and Jill A. Fisher, PhD from the Department of Social Medicine have published a new survey that identifies how researchers using vertebrate animals viewed issues of significance for translational science.


Rebecca L. Walker, PhD, is lead author and Jill A. Fisher, PhD is a co-author of a new survey that aims to identify how researchers using vertebrate animals viewed issues of significance for translational science. Both Walker and Fisher are professors in the Department of Social Medicine.

Translational science: A survey of US biomedical researchers’ perspectives and practice,” was published December 23 in the journal LabAnimal.

The survey received responses from 1,187 researchers.

“The resulting data show that while scientists have predictable views about the significance of animal studies and the strength of welfare protections, there are important and nuanced differences in researcher perspectives depending on the animals that they use and demographic and experiential factors. These findings indicate that the animal research community must not be painted as monolithic in its perspectives on important questions having to do with scientific practices, oversight or public engagement. Furthermore, although scientists are concerned about apparent shortcomings in translation, reproducibility and rigor in their work, they do not necessarily agree on what is driving these problems when they occur. This indicates that there is no general consensus on the most effective solutions to these problems. Because the value of using vertebrate animals in biomedical research often depends on success in advancing human health, finding such solutions should be a priority,” the survey concluded.

Juengst awarded Kenan Research Leave for Spring, 2022

December 6, 2021

The UNC Provost’s Office has awarded Eric Juengst a Kenan Foundation-supported university sabbatical for the Spring Semester of 2022. Juengst will pursue research exploring the revival of scientific interest in “good” human genes, by examining different forms of beneficial genomic variant research and their ethical and social implications. Kenan Research Leave proposals are awarded annually on the basis of a University-wide competition to sabbatical eligible faculty.

Fisher, Walker Elected as Hastings Center Fellows

December 2, 2021

The Hastings Center recently announced the election of 24 new fellows, which include Jill A. Fisher, PhD and Rebecca L. Walker, PhD in the UNC Department of Social Medicine.

Jill A. Fisher, PhD and Rebecca L. Walker, PhD

The Hastings Center is pleased to announce the election of 24 new fellows. Hastings Center fellows are a group of more than 200 individuals of outstanding accomplishment whose work has informed scholarship and public understanding of complex ethical issues in health, health care, science, and technology. The new fellows come from six countries and a range of disciplines, including medicine, nursing, philosophy, law, American studies, and theater. Their research and other activities encompass diverse areas such as critical care medicine, conflicts of interests, clinical research ethics, genomics, artificial intelligence, philosophy of race, health equity, and social justice.

 

Jill A. Fisher, PhD, is professor of social medicine and core faculty in the University of North Carolina Center for Bioethics. Her scholarship and teaching interests center upon how social inequalities are produced or exploited by commercialized medicine in the United States. Dr. Fisher’s NIH-funded research examines how clinical trials are conducted and who participates in them as researchers and human subjects. In her 2009 book Medical Research for Hire (Rutgers University Press), she shows how clinical trials have become a revenue stream for physicians and an important source of medical “care” for uninsured patients. Her more recent work has explored healthy volunteers’ participation in clinical trials. Her 2020 book Adverse Events (NYU Press) analyzes healthy volunteers’ participation in drug trials through the lenses of stigma and social inequality. Dr. Fisher has also published on the social construction of Munchausen syndrome, tattooing as a cultural practice, gender and science, hospital tracking and location technologies, nonhuman animal research, and qualitative methods. https://www.jillfisher.net

 

Rebecca L. Walker, PhD, is a professor of social medicine and of philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is also faculty in the Center for Bioethics, a fellow in the Parr Center for Ethics, and adjunct professor of public policy. Her contributions to bioethics have been in animal research ethics, human healthy volunteer research, genomic advances, respect for autonomy, and health justice. Her work on the ethics of biomedical research using nonhuman animals departs from the typical focus on questions of rights or welfare, which tend to lead to polarizing perspectives. Instead, she promotes a virtue ethical approach, which allows for attention to the ethical issues arising internally to animal research practices. Among her publications, Dr. Walker has co-edited the third edition of the Social Medicine Reader (Duke University Press, 2019), Health Inequalities and Justice: New Conversations Across the Disciplines (UNC Press 2016) and Working Virtue: Virtue Ethics and Contemporary Moral Problems (Oxford University Press, 2007). https://rebeccawalker.web.unc.edu

Jill Fisher, Ph.D. quoted in the BMJ Investigation and interviewed for CBS 17 News.

November 4, 2021

In Paul Thacker’s article for BMJ Investigation “Covid-19: Researcher blows the whistle on data integrity issues in Pfizer’s vaccine trial,” he outlined poor practices uncovered by a whistleblower at a research company that was contracted to conduct Pfizer’s covid-19 vaccine trial. In the article, questions were raised about the data’s integrity and oversight, and Dr. Fisher commented on the FDA’s role in overseeing clinical trials.

The BMJ investigation was picked up by CBS 17 News reporter Joedy McCreary who also interviewed Dr. Fisher for his story: “Fact check: Report questioning Pfizer trial shouldn’t undermine confidence in vaccines.”

CEDG and HEC Welcome Reece Carter and Matt Washko

October 26, 2021

Reece Carter and Matt Washko have been selected as the new student leaders for the School of Medicine’s  Clinical Ethics Discussion Group This position also entails appointment to the UNC Hospital Ethics Committee. Outgoing leaders are Konan Beke and Celia Mizelle. Center for Bioethics faculty members Arlene Davis and Jean Cadigan are advisors to the student group. Professors Davis and Cadigan are also HEC members.

 

Reece grew up in Raleigh, NC, and graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2019 with a B.S. in Neuroscience. Reece is interested in academic medicine and the field of medical humanities, specifically as it relates to narrative medicine and ethics. He hopes to explore some of these interests in his work with the HEC and eventually bring these lessons to bear on patient care.

Matt is originally from Salisbury, NC and graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 2020 with a B.S. in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Medicine, Literature, and Culture. For the past two years he has worked as a project manager for oncology lay navigation, setting up and maintaining programs across the state to help cancer patients overcome barriers to care. Matt has a strong interest in cancer care, social medicine and the health humanities, and bioethics.

PREPARE (PRomoting Equity for Pregnant Adolescents in REsearch)

October 22, 2021

Annie Lyerly and Kristen Sullivan have been awarded an R01 from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) to develop empirically informed guidance for conducting ethically responsible HIV/co-infections research with pregnant adolescents.  Pregnant adolescents face synergistic challenges in the context of HIV – heightened risk of maternal infection, vertical transmission, and maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality compared to adult women living with HIV – and a largely absent evidence base to inform prevention and treatment strategies. This project seeks to address a key constraint fueling this scientific void — questions and confusions around the ethical permissibility of including pregnant adolescents in research. Through qualitative research and iterative engagement with diverse stakeholders, together with scholarly ethical and regulatory analysis, this project aims to identify a clear path forward for HIV/co-infections research with this critical and neglected group. Co-investigators on the project include Dr. Stuart Rennie (UNC Social Medicine), Dr. Irving Hoffman (UNC Division of Infectious Diseases), Dr. Chifundo Zimba (UNC Project Malawi), and Dr. Mary Kasule (Botswana-Baylor Children’s Clinical Centre for Excellence), and collaboration with Dr. Chelsea Morroni (University of Edinburgh & Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership) and Dr. Cathy Slack (University of KwaZulu-Natal).

Study to Examine Physicians’ Pandemic Stress (STEPPS)

October 14, 2021

Mara Buchbinder has launched the Study to Examine Physicians’ Pandemic Stress (STEPPS) with funding from the Greenwall Foundation and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified ongoing stress, overwork, and disillusionment among the healthcare workforce. Healthcare professionals responding to the pandemic are experiencing crises of moral integrity and personal and professional wellbeing. STEPPS integrates qualitative interviews with conceptual analysis to investigate moral and occupational stress experienced by physicians working on the front lines of COVID-19 care in four American cities: New York City, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Miami. The project will result in evidence-based recommendations, with input from an expert advisory panel, to guide systems-level changes urgently needed to protect physicians’ moral integrity and occupational wellbeing. Co-Investigators on the project include Dr. Tania Jenkins (UNC Sociology), Dr. Nancy Berlinger (The Hastings Center), and Dr. John Staley (UNC Occupational Safety and Health Education and Research Center).

 

New Collaboration between UNC and Stellenbosch University, South Africa

September 16, 2021

The Research for Ethical Data Science in Southern Africa (REDSSA) project has the overall aims of producing new knowledge regarding the ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) of conducting data science research to develop evidence-based, context specific guidance for the conduct and governance of data science initiatives such as DS-I Africa, and to strengthen the culture of responsible data science in Southern Africa. The project will be conducted in three phases. Phase 1 is research intensive and will obtain empirical data on key stakeholder views regarding the development of data science guidance to inform governance of DSI-Africa Research Hubs in Southern Africa. This phase will start with conceptual research and normative analysis of the ELSI issues related to data science.  In Phase 2, we will develop guidance documents informed by Phase 1 research and by best practices in international data science research guidance, the limited experience and existing literature to date concerning data science research and governance of data management in Southern Africa. In Phase 3, we aim to amplify the impact and enhance the sustainability of our research and governance activities by creating ELSI networks and communication channels focusing on data science in Southern Africa. This will involve establishing an ELSI Data Science Southern African Network (EDSSAN) to respond to evolving ELSI concerns in DS-I Africa Research Hubs beyond the funding period, hosting annual conferences, and leveraging existing local networks.

This is a U01 grant in response to the NIH funding opportunity RFA-RM-20-017: Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa (DS-I Africa): Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications Research. The purpose of the funding opportunity is to support research on the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) associated with a new program entitled Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa (DS-I Africa). The goal of DS-I Africa is to spur new health discoveries and catalyze innovation in healthcare, public health, and health research on the continent through application of data science.

Co-PIs:

Stuart Rennie and Keymanthri Moodley.