About the Center for Health Care Ethics

The Albert Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics at Saint Louis University is committed to excellence in teaching, service and research in health care. Engaging in both secular and religious discourse, the center brings Catholic, Jesuit tradition into interdisciplinary study of philosophical and legal bioethics.

The Center for Health Care Ethics has a long history of serving faith-based health care institutions through consultations and educational programs. It’s received more than $2 million in research funding from government agencies and foundations, including grants from the National Institute of Health and SSM Health Care.

Students can earn pursue a Ph.D. in health care ethics while completing professional training in law or medicine. The center offers three dual-degree programs: M.D/Ph.D., J.D./Ph.D. and M.A./Ph.D.

History of the Center

The Albert Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics was established in 1979 to provide ethics education and consultations at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine. It has grown into an independent academic department with diverse faculty, vibrant research and excellent educational offerings.

Throughout this time, center faculty has influenced numerous bioethics debates in American society, serving as consultants to the Nancy Beth Cruzan case, NASA, the Institute of Medicine, the United Network for Organ Sharing, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Center for Health Care Ethics Timeline

1979: The Center for Health Care Ethics is established

Founded by Kevin O'Rourke, OP, JCD, the Center’s original mission is to provide education and consultations, particularly within the School of Medicine and throughout Catholic health care.

1980s: The Center’s educational mission at SLU expands

New health sciences programs are added and the Center develops a strong reputation for its continuing education summer institutes, which serve more than 100 people each year.

1986: The Center receives endowment gifts

The annual Reverend Edward J. Drummond, S.J., Lecture in Health Care Ethics is established in honor of the first vice president of SLU’s School of Medicine. Speakers include Ezekiel Emanuel, Edmond Pellegrino, Daniel Sulmasy and other prominent scholars.

1993: Health Care Ethics USA is established

Originally under the editorship of Kevin O'Rourke, the periodical has been published in partnership with the Catholic Health Association since 2007.

1996: Students are enrolled the Ph.D. in Health Care Ethics program

The Center begins functioning as an academic department. Its mission develops in critical ways, as it establishes an increasingly multidisciplinary faculty and a greater emphasis on research publications and grants.

1999: The certificate in empirical research methods is established

The optional program allows students to complete 15 hours of coursework in empirical research methods, enabling them to gather original dissertation data from surveys, interviews or focus groups. The program is the first of its kind, anticipating the movement toward empirical research in bioethics.

2000: The Center obtains its first grant from the National Institutes of Health

The Center also begins partnering with the School of Medicine to establish an M.D./Ph.D. dual-degree program. It has since obtained more than $2 million in research funding from government agencies and foundations.

2005: The Center begins offering a certificate in clinical health care ethics

The Ph.D. program also begins collaborating with the Saint Louis University School of Law to establish a new J.D./Ph.D. health care ethics dual-degree program.

2009: The Center’s begins offering an M.A. in theology/Ph.D. health care ethics

In cooperation with the Aquinas Institute of Theology, the center begin offering students a dual-degree in health care ethics and theology. The Center is also renamed the Albert Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics to honor the contributions of Dr. Albert Gnaegi to Saint Louis University.

2010: The Center relocates to the Salus Center

The Social Science Research Group is established and the center begins teaching undergraduate humanities courses.

2012: An undergraduate minor in health care ethics is introduced

The 15-credit hour minor offers undergraduate students an opportunity to engage in discussion of the ethical questions that occur in health care systems.

2015: The Center introduces a joint Ph.D. in health care ethics and theology

A partnership with the Aquinas Institute of Theology produces graduates with a well-rounded understanding of ethics based on Catholic health care.