Saint Louis University

SSRG Update

Director's Corner: A New Home

November 5, 2010

CHCE Distinguished Lecturer
Amy M. Haddad, PhD

"Disparities of Power in
Health Care: Exploring the Ethical Implications"

3:00pm, Chase Park Plaza, Starlight Room

November 5, 2010

Bander Endowed Lecturer
Marcia Angell, MD

"Conflicts of Interest
in Medicine"

7:30am, LRC Auditorium,
SLU Medical Campus

SSRG Update

Q: What do the following questions share in common?
  • How can we enhance patients’ understanding of complex information during the informed consent process (e.g., their possible randomization to various arms of a cancer drug trial)?
  • How can we increase rates of organ donation while respecting the ethical beliefs of most citizens and protecting public trust?
  • How can we change the environment of medicine to foster professionalism, optimal patient care, and the responsible use of limited resources?
A: Reflection on all of these ethical or policy questions is greatly enhanced by social science data—e.g., data from studies that test enhanced consent processes, that assesses public attitudes and fears regarding organ donation polices, or that study the factors that influence physician behavior.

This fall, Dr. James DuBois established the Social Science Research Group (SSRG) within the Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics (CHCE) to explore such questions. The new SSRG website states that the SSRG exists

"to conduct and foster social science research that yields a deeper understanding of significant issues in biomedical and research ethics. The SSRG will accomplish its mission through grant writing, qualitative and quantitative research, publications, and the mentoring of PhD students, post-doctoral fellows, and faculty."

The SSRG builds upon 2 facets of the Gnaegi Center that have existed for more than a decade. First, since 1999, the Center’s PhD program in Health Care Ethics has offered a “Certificate in Empirical Research Methods” to doctoral candidates. Students complete 15 credit hours of research methods coursework before writing a dissertation that builds upon a qualitative or quantitative empirical study. Current dissertation projects are listed on the SSRG’s webpage. “Completing the qualitative coursework, as part of the empirical certificate, has given me the confidence to apply the skills required to design and conduct my own dissertation research study. The opportunity to design, implement and evaluate your own study is incredibly rewarding,” says Holly Phernetton, MPH, MS.

Second, since 2000, DuBois and colleagues have obtained over $2 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, the US Office of Research Integrity, the Greenwall Foundation, and other sources. Current projects involve studying professional misbehavior in medical research and practice and conducting systematic reviews of empirical studies in mental health research ethics.

Pam Amsler provides support for projects conducted within the SSRG. In July 2010, Pam transitioned from the position of Administrative Assistant to Grants Development Specialist. “Pam’s assistance with budget monitoring, compliance, and data management have been invaluable as we seek to increase the quality, quantity, and visibility of the work we’re doing within the SSRG,” says DuBois.

The SSRG will also support a blog on social science methods in bioethics. DuBois hopes that he or members of the SSRG will post to blog twice per month. Click here to read the first two posting:

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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