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Drew University to Present Yom HaShoah Conference on Bioethics and the Holocaust

Madison—Reflecting on the Past to Protect the Future: A Conference on Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust will be presented on Yom HaShoah at Drew University, with the support of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) and Center for Medicine After the Holocaust (CMATH). The conference is being held on April 16, 2015, on Yom Hashoah in an attempt to honor the memory of those whose lives were irrevocably changed by Nazi medicine during the Holocaust.

The participation of the Nazi medical and scientific communities in the persecution and mass murder of those deemed eugenically ‘unfit’ has been increasingly well documented. However, there are currently very few programs in the country that teach about the relevance of the Holocaust to modern medical practice and human rights efforts. Educators and Jewish leadership agree that with the number of Holocaust survivors dwindling, it is essential that the lessons of the Holocaust continue to be explored within academic settings. Organizers say educating the public and healthcare professionals about the ways in which medicine and scientific progress was abused during the Holocaust is vital to shaping the way  current and future generations of leaders will manage modern bioethical issues.

In an attempt to reach the academic community, Drew will be offering Continuing Medical Education credits for physicians who attend the conference. Additionally, the University is reaching out to local synagogues, day schools, Federations, JCC/Ys in an effort to reach the broader Jewish community, as well as to bioethicists and other academics, healthcare professionals, and human rights activists, in order to make the conference applicable to all of modern society.

The conference, offered through Drew’s Caspersen School of Graduate Studies’ Department of Medical Humanities, in conjunction with its Center for Holocaust/Genocide Studies, will include plenary sessions and panels led by internationally recognized scholars in the field. Planned speakers include Tessa Chelouche of the Technion Institute in Haifa and Dieter Kuntz, PhD, Program Officer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The keynoter is Dr. Arthur Caplan, widely considered one of the premier bioethicists in the world, and founding father of the academic field of Holocaust Studies and Bioethics. Planned topics include Nazi medical experimentation, the Nuremberg Trials, the development of codes of ethics governing human subject research, Racial Hygiene Theory, and the lasting legacy of the Holocaust for the field of bioethics.

The project, brainchild of Stacy M. Gallin, DMH, adjunct assistant professor at Drew, is being spearheaded by Dr. Gallin and Philip Scibilia, DMH, Director of Drew’s Medical Humanities Program, in conjunction with the Drew University Center for Holocaust/Genocide Studies. The conference will provide a necessary platform from which to present these important issues, but also could be the springboard for a long-term program to be housed at the University. Gallin and Scibilia anticipate establishing an Academic Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust to study the relevance of bioethical issues arising from the WWII-era to modern society. This Institute would enable scholars to do research and even potentially offer postdoctoral fellowships. It would train educators, healthcare professionals, human rights advocates, historians, sociologists, clergy and others regarding these issues. The ultimate goal would be to create a consortium of international schools in order to facilitate international scholarship on this topic. The proposed Institute already has the support of Technion Institute, the USHMM and CMATH. Gallin is seeking other institutions and individuals to participate in the project to ensure the dream becomes a reality.

Housing the Institute at Drew University will provide a unique educational opportunity for the Metrowest Jewish community and surrounding areas. It will directly impact Holocaust education at all academic levels, and will provide a forum for local educators and professionals to learn from esteemed authorities in these fields. It will bring these experts to the area, allowing for speakers and courses to enhance the knowledge and scholarship of area educators, healthcare professionals and others which will, in turn, directly impact the education of our next generation.

“What began as my field of study has become my passion,” said Gallin. “If we can disseminate this information worldwide, help educate the next generation, then we can be assured that people will never forget the horrors of the Nazi’s experimentation. We can ensure that future generations will learn from those horrors, and will take those lessons to the next level. My hope is that, one day, a program of this kind will almost be superfluous, with the lessons ingrained in professionals in all fields of study. However, for today, I believe it will serve as an invaluable teaching tool, helping these professionals move toward the future without ever losing sight of the past.”

To obtain more information about the conference or to register, visit www.Conference on Medicine, Bioethics and the Holocaust/Caspersen School of Graduate Studies/Drew University or contact Dr. Gallin directly at [email protected].

By Jill Kirsch

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