2016 Bioethics Research Showcase Winners Announced

The Kennedy Institute of Ethics’s Undergraduate Bioethics Research Showcase, a juried exhibition of student work in a variety of categories and disciplines, was hosted this Spring for the second year.

This round of the Showcase saw submissions nearly double, with 50 Georgetown students entering a total of 39 submissions. Yet again, students from all four classes were represented, with a high number of juniors and seniors participating. These students combined to represent all four schools at Georgetown, spread out across 21 different undergraduate majors. Fourteen faculty mentors helped to guide and shape individual student projects, and a series of workshops on topics ranging from writing effective policy proposals to methods in bioethics research offered extra opportunities for instruction and inspiration.

An interdisciplinary panel of judges was convened from across the Georgetown community to identify the most outstanding submissions, which were judged on the basis of originality, engagement, clarity and quality of presentation, and critical analysis and contextualization of the subject matter.

In the category of “academic paper“, a commendation was awarded to Madeline Scannell (The Centrality of Cities). The third place prize was split between two papers, one by Kenneth Armstrong (A More Exact Ethical Framework for Environmental Policy) and one by Robin Go, Candace Pallitto, and Nevin Snow (Exploring the Application of Environmental Health Goals to the Olympic Games’ Process: Addressing Endemic and Urgent Needs in Brazil through an Ethical Environmental Health Assessment Framework). Second place was awarded to Margaret Dunne (Ethics and the Ebola Outbreak), and first place to Michelle Carey (Ethical Considerations Regarding and Appropriate Uses of GMOs).

At a ceremony honoring the winners, James Olson, Program Manager for Faculty Initiatives at Georgetown’s CNDLS, had questions for students throughout the night. Of Ms. Carey, he asked: “In your paper, it seems GMO’s are given the green light, but at the same time there are risks, and the public opinion on this matters. Could you explain that a bit?”

“Public opinion is a very important part of policy,” Carey replied, “and so I wanted to discuss how, despite there being some misunderstandings and how that could affect the inherent morality of the action, this needs to be taken into account when creating public policy for the commercial world.”

In the category of “policy proposal“, two papers split the first prize award. One, by Hannah Brown (Ethically Augmenting Access to Appropriate Mental Health and Psychosocial Services [MHPS] for Adolescent Syrian Refugees in Jordan), proposed increased access to appropriate mental health and psychosocial services for adolescent Syrian refugees in Jordan. Another, by Kelly Song, Simone Wahnschafft, and John Campbell Jr. (Proposal to Strengthen Ghana’s Capacity to Address Diabetes Mellitus), leveraged an ethical framework to propose a program that would use innovative mobile primary care technology to first prevent diabetes before its onset, and then to improve access to sustainable health services to address diabetes in Ghana.

In the category of “poster“, Rosa Cuppari, Anna Buttaci, and Andrew Meshnick (Something in the Water: The Confluence of Lead, Children’s Health, and Democracy in Flint, MI) were awarded a commendation. Amanda Finnell, Hannah Smith, and Katharine Mangialardi (College Students Can be the Key to America’s Organ Shortage) were awarded first place in the category, for their analysis of the increasing shortage of organ donations—responsible for up to 21 lost American lives per day and nearly 8,000 lives over the course of a year—to see if offering additional opportunities for college students to enroll as organ donors could function as a potential solution to this problem.

Olson asked Finnell, Smith, and Mangialardi why they found college students, a traditionally healthy and young group, to be an ideal demographic for organ donations.

The group had several reasons for doing so, but said the main one was “how effective the method was at targeting a very large portion of the population annually, which was very important for us because generally, you’re only asked about organ donation at the DMV–and you may never go again in this online world. Asking this question yearly gives you a much more fluid population base to pull from.”

In the category of “multimedia & performance“, Nick Dellasanta (Neglected) won third place and Isabella Gatti (Replication) won second place. First place in the category was awarded to Marnie Klein (Vitals) for her dramatic multimedia piece, loosely based on the events of the 1984 Head Injury Experiments at the University of Pennsylvania and the ensuing controversy.

In the category of “literary & creative writing“, Caitlin Cleary, Andrew Green, Noah Martin, and Caitlin Tompkins (Invasive Hitlist Volume 1: Snakehead) were awarded a commendation. First place in the category was awarded to Janelle Spira (Legalizing Physician-Assisted Suicide: A Grave Mistake) for her speech, originally delivered on the floor of Georgetown’s Philodemic Society, which examined the ethical issues surrounding physician-assisted suicide.

Olson wrapped up the night with final questions for the Flint Water poster group, consisting of Cuppari, Buttaci, and Meshnick: “Very quickly, what is one generalizable principle that you take from this incident in Flint that you think could help other cities in other locations?”

The students were adamant: “The main issue is that financial desire was allowed to interfere with the health of the general public.”

Olson closed the night with thanks and a final thought: “I just want to say, I’m impressed with this group … you’re wrestling with really complicated, difficult ethical issues.”

Photos from the ceremony and further information on this year’s participants can be found here.