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Phoebe R. Berman Professorship of Bioethics and Public Health

Berman Institute of Bioethics, Bloomberg School of Public Health

Established in 1996 by Phoebe Rhea Berman

PHOEBE RHEA BERMAN believed there was no better place than Johns Hopkins to address the ethical dilemmas raised by advances in medical discovery. “With all the complexities of modern life — new discoveries in science, changes in medicine and medical care — medical professionals and policy makers are faced with very difficult decisions. There is a need for the teaching of ethics in our society.”

To underscore this conviction, Berman established an endowment for the Institute, saying, “If you have more money than you need, you should give some of it away, shouldn’t you? And what better to support than the Bioethics Institute? The work that is being done there has great meaning for me and can make a real difference in society.” The Berman Institute was officially established in 1995.

Berman grew up on a farm and at a young age developed what she called a reverence for life. Many decades later, she and her husband went to French Equatorial Africa to work with Albert Schweitzer as extended volunteers. Schweitzer’s work inspired her, and her commitment to the need for ethical considerations in medical and scientific decision-making was reaffirmed and strengthened. “You have to have a strong heart and great will to make the kind of difference someone like Dr. Schweitzer made. All I am doing is making a contribution in a way that is meaningful for me,” Berman said.

Berman had previously established the Edgar Berman Professorship in International Health and the Edgar Berman and Hubert Humphrey Fund in International Health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health to honor her husband, Edgar Berman, who was a pioneering surgeon, an outspoken social critic, and a best-selling author. Berman was also a dedicated supporter of the arts, contributing to the Peabody Institute, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Baltimore Symphony.

Held by Nancy Kass

NANCY KASS, ScD, is the Vice Provost for Graduate and Professional Education and the Phoebe R. Berman Professor of Bioethics and Public Health at Johns Hopkins, where she is also both the Deputy Director for Public Health in the Berman Institute of Bioethics and Professor of Health Policy and Management in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In 2009-2010, Dr. Kass was based in Geneva, Switzerland, where she was working with the World Health Organization (WHO) Ethics Review Committee Secretariat.

Dr. Kass received her BA from Stanford University, completed doctoral training in health policy from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and was awarded a National Research Service Award to complete a postdoctoral fellowship in bioethics at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University. Dr. Kass conducts empirical work in bioethics and health policy. Her publications are primarily in the field of U.S. and international research ethics, HIV/AIDS ethics policy, public health ethics (including ethics and obesity prevention and ethics and public health preparedness), and ethics and the learning healthcare system. She is coeditor (with Ruth Faden) of HIV, AIDS and Childbearing: Public Policy, Private Lives (Oxford University Press, 1996).

She has served as consultant to the President’s Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, to the National Bioethics Advisory Commission, and to the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Kass currently serves as the Chair of the NIH Precision Medicine Initiative Central IRB; she previously co-chaired the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Committee to develop Recommendations for Informed Consent Documents for Cancer Clinical Trials and served on the NCI’s central IRB. Current research projects examine improving informed consent in human research, ethical guidance development for Ebola and other infectious outbreaks, and ethics and learning health care. Dr. Kass teaches the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s course on U.S. and International Research Ethics and Integrity, she served as the director of the School’s PhD program in bioethics and health policy from its inception until 2016, and she has directed (with Adnan Hyder) the Johns Hopkins Fogarty African Bioethics Training Program since its inception in 2000. Dr. Kass is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine (now National Academy of Medicine) and an elected Fellow of the Hastings Center.