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Ethics society's growth meets push for major

Nov. 2, 2005

By JACQUELYN KERR, reporter

More than 160 students have joined Baylor University Medical Ethics Discussion Society, an organization that raises awareness about medical humanities, since the club's chartering ceremony in September.

The organization was created as an academic supplement to the medical humanities minor and possible future major, said Stefani Hawbaker, an Arlington sophomore and BUMEDS president.

Proposals for the medical humanities major have been sent to the Baylor Board of Regents. Dr. Michael Attas, assistant director of medical humanities, said he hopes the proposal will be approved by next fall.

If the major is accepted, it will be the first of its kind nationwide.

"Baylor is taking an unprecedented step by marrying the concepts of spirituality and health care," said Martin Hechanova, a Coppell sophomore and BUMEDS co-founder.

Dr. James Marcum, professor of philosophy, is working with the development office to raise endowment for medical humanities.

Medical humanities include courses in religion, sociology, death and dying, bioethics, psychology, history and political science. The organization discusses issues students may encounter in their medical careers, like tragedy or practice management, Attas said.

"We want the students to be challenged and pushed and emerged, thinking about things they've never thought about before," Attas said.

Also, knowledge of medical ethics helps students in medical school interviews, said Heather Pinkard, a Pine Bluff, Ark., sophomore and BUMEDS treasurer.

When students have engaged in medical humanities in a positive way, medical schools are impressed with their interviews, Attas said.

"To be a good doctor in society a person needs an ethical perspective," Hechanova said. "Being a doctor is no longer about giving someone medicine. It's about honoring a patient's rights and treating them both physically and spiritually."

Many doctors are implementing medical ethics into their practices, Hawbaker said.

"In a public university without religious ties, it's hard to bring up religion and ethics," Pinkard said. " But, Baylor has a sense of openness and religion in ethical decisions. They promote students talking about them."

Seventy percent of BUMEDS members are pre-med, but students of all majors are welcome to join, Hechanova said.

Houston junior Stephanie Gonzalez said BUMEDS is appealing because not a lot of people like to discuss the ethical part of medicine.

"A lot of what we talk about is med-related, but it can help other students think outside the box," Gonzalez said.

Topics at monthly meetings include physician-assisted suicide, the role of hope within medicine and how much comfort to give a patient. Representative Chet Edwards has been invited to speak at a future meeting about health care financing.

For more information, contact Stefani_Hawbaker@Baylor.edu.