Unconventionally advancing the field of clinical ethics

Much has been written about conference fatigue and how to down the dullness, survive and even thrive at academic meetings. Conference organizers are getting creative. It’s no longer just about exotic locations and swag, but the content itself.

With this in mind, we’re thrilled to host the second Clinical Ethics UnConference from Feb. 5 to 7 in partnership with Houston Methodist Hospital and Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. Clinical ethicists from around the country will spend three days in Houston working together on questions facing this young and growing field.

But what exactly is an UnConference? Literature suggests it’s all about focusing on facilitating informal, networking-focused interactions: a more flexible agenda with topics selected and influenced by participants, an open and relaxed atmosphere, and content that comes from the shared experiences and expertise of all participants in the room –  not just from the organizers or “front of the room.” It also involves participation in planning and structuring of the event.


Our upcoming event will hold true to these basic principles. Presentations are not fully formed and complete ideas presented to a static audience. Instead, UnConference participants will bring ongoing projects and ideas and seek real-time feedback from other participants in a collaborative manner.

A wide variety of ideas were submitted for consideration. Topics such as pitching an ethics service to an administrator, culturally competent ethics consultation, and managing conflicts surrounding brain death were accepted.

Because the UnConference puts an emphasis on collaboration, participants will cross paths meaningfully with clinical ethicists of all types, from fellows, to practicing clinicians, to full professors with decades of experience. It’s an opportunity to connect and collaborate in moving our field forward.

The first Unconference in our field was hosted by the Cleveland Clinic in 2018, and many who attended can attest that the conference lived up to its name. For example, our Dr. Trevor Bibler presented a project about a clinical ethics fellowship evaluation tool. He was able to receive real-time feedback from clinical ethics fellowship directors in one session and comments from current clinical ethics fellows in another session.

The UnConference will also feature the inaugural Baruch A. Brody Lecture in Bioethics, an award created to recognize philosophically rigorous, clinically relevant scholarship in bioethics.  Holly Fernandez Lynch, J.D., M.B.E., of Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, the first-ever recipient of the award, will start off the conference with a talk about conflicts of conscience in medicine.

We are excited about the opportunity to host this event and know we’ll be pleasantly surprised by all the unexpected, unique interactions and opportunities uncovered.

Learn more information about the UnConference and register to attend.

-By Jocelyn Lapointe, M.P.A., project leader with the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine

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