By Nathalie Perez
It is a thrilling experience for students when the same topics lectured in a classroom are put into practice right before their eyes. Five FIU Honors College students received the privilege of attending a bioethics conference where their classroom topics were held at the forefront of national discourse.
Dr. Marin Gillis, FIU HWCOM Professor and Honors College Fellow, invited her students to attend the Florida Bioethics Network Conference hosted at the Miami Biscayne Bay Marriott. The FBN Conference is one of the oldest and largest conferences in the nation dedicated to ethics in healthcare with entry tickets ranging from $225 to $300 for non FBN members. Over 400 healthcare professionals gathered to discuss the ethical concerns regarding public health issues such as climate change, cancer, AIDS, Florida POLST, and DNAR orders.
These topics, however, were hardly unfamiliar to Dr. Gillis’ students who are currently enrolled in her Biomedical Ethics course. Having this advantage, the students were able to raise their own questions and propose insightful solutions to the issues presented. “It gave me an advantage for real. It is real good to listen to them while they are using the same terminology which we already learned at school,” said Noah Hassan, an Honors junior and pre-dental student. “The ability to follow those discussions, I was thrilled to be able to think and analyze beyond their discussions.”
Besides reinforcing their curriculum, the conference also served as a stimulating reminder as to why they chose to pursue the sacrificing, but worthwhile career of medicine. “So it was one of the most impactful experiences I have had as it reminded me of why I am sacrificing my resources towards being a physician. It ensures you that it is not for the money, and it’s not for the fame, but it’s to reach the higher purpose of treating patients as persons and provide what is in their best interest,” said Amro AlAshi, Honors senior and pre-medical student.
The students were not the least intimidated sitting among the crowd of physicians and hospital bioethics committee chairs. Their ease was partly due to the superb preparation they received from Dr. Gillis. “The overall atmosphere in the conference was very positive and extremely professional and not once did I/we feel like we did not fit in,” said Fernando Alvarez, Honors senior and pre-medical student. “Upon leaving the conference, my peers and I agreed that having taken the Biomedical Ethics course with Dr. Gillis made us that much more equipped to attend professional level ethics conferences as this one. We all felt that if we would have come in as a lay student with no Biomedical Ethics knowledge we very well may have been lost at times when words like “Futility”, “Advanced Directives”, “Informed Consent” were used.”
Already entering with such a solid foundation, the students were only further inspired as they witnessed professionals bringing their classroom topics to life. It did not take long before they noticed how well the discussions at the conference mirrored those held in their classroom. “It feels like a real experience outside the seminar class room”, said Noah Hassan. “I even mentioned to Dr. Gillis it felt great to sit among clinicians, and listen to their debates and solutions. It is great to see what you are learning is real, and the professionals in your field speaking about topics you learned at the school.”
Both the FBN Conference and the Honors Biomedical Ethics course have introduced these students to the other side of medicine, the side that cannot be found in science books. In times of continuous advances in medicine, the subject of bioethics has never been more pressing. The principles these students have learned throughout their bioethics course will be the same ones they will use as future health professionals to make the decisions that will shape the field of public health care.