Ira Bedzow, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Medicine
UNESCO Chair of Bioethics – New York Medical College
Ira Bedzow, Ph.D., is associate professor of medicine in the School of Medicine. Dr. Bedzow is the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics at New York Medical College which is part of an International Network of Institutes for Medical Ethics Training.
Bedzow received his Ph.D. in religion from Emory University, an M.A. in Jewish studies from Touro College, an M.A. in humanities from the University of Chicago and a B.A. in political science from Princeton University. He is also an ordained Orthodox rabbi (yoreh yoreh and yadin yadin).
Dr. Bedzow is a senior scholar at the Aspen Center for Social Values, a network of socially minded individuals whose mission is to promote serious thought about—and to bring a fresh and unique voice to—social and societal challenges that confront the world today.
As a medical educator, my overall goal is to teach medical ethics and professionalism in a way that students develop professional habits rather than solely learning concepts. To do so, I emphasize that ethics education should be skills-oriented, where competencies are identified and assessed. This pedagogical approach builds on the recognition that ethical decision-making and moral action consist of different skills and face different challenges. Moreover, moral action is not an automatic consequence of making an ethical decision. Oftentimes, people know “what to do,” i.e. what the moral decision ought to be, but they still do not know “how to do it,” (i.e. what particular steps are required to act on that decision). This is especially the case in the healthcare environment, when cultural and inter-professional diversity is commonplace.
With respect to learning modalities, I teach and direct courses that demand active learning whereby students exercise their practical reasoning and gain experience that demands reflection. Students are put in situations and/or simulations where they can make choices and apprehend the consequences, both good and bad. Students learn and practice professionally appropriate responses to situations so that they have scripts and training for the future. This experience is not meant solely to allow students to incorporate technical skills or gestures that are listed in graduation competencies. Professionalism must also, and primarily, consist of an attitude, perspective and emotions through which those behaviors should manifest.
My scholar activities and interests primarily relate to understanding the ethical implications of biotechnology as well as how medical professionals can develop stable professional identities. I utilize a number of different lenses through which I examine these topics, such as philosophy, political economy, psychology and religion. My interests also extend in practical areas, such as advising biotech companies as to the ethical perspectives of different religious groups to their products and research. Though my scholarly activities and interests might seem quite broad, they all have an underlying theme, namely, how ethical action relates to epistemology and ontology— i.e., the relationship between what exists in the (social and natural) world, how we know what exists and how that knowledge influences the ways we interact. This relationship plays out in the tension between professional integrity and patient autonomy, in areas such as shared decision making, informed consent and methods for engaging patients and other stakeholders. It also plays out in the tension between religion, law and ethics in democratic, pluralistic societies, especially in the realm of health care policy and the role of health and medicine in society, in areas such as stewardship of health care resources, measurement of the ethical climate in organizations, transplant ethics, genetics and end of life care.
B.A., Political Science; Political Theory, Political Economy, Jewish Studies: Princeton University
M.A., Humanities; Philosophy and Religion: University of Chicago
Ph.D., Religion: Emory University
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