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New Masters program first of its kind

Something new is happening at USF’s College of Medicine. It’s a new Master’s Program in Bioethics and Medical Humanities, the first of its kind in the nation.

The Masters program will offer students fresh new perspectives on current healthcare and medical issues in our society said Lois LaCivita Nixon, a professor of medical ethics and humanities at the USF College of Medicine. It will do this by crossing discipline lines and by helping students venture outside of their comfortable niches.

“Disciplines that once were isolated are now finding that there are very valuable connections that ought to be made,” Nixon said.

The idea behind the program is that current healthcare issues cannot be solved through any one discipline but through a combination of insights gathered from a multitude of disciplines, including education, philosophy, medicine, science, humanities, history and law. Some of the issues the program will deal with include cloning, stem cell research, aging and end-of-life treatments.

Students will be required to take the core classes dealing with medical ethics, bioethics, health sciences and philosophical and religious perspectives on ethics. They can then branch outside their discipline by taking electives in history, law, the arts or humanities in order to help them understand how others in the culture feel about the current healthcare issues.

One example would be a student who is interested in end-of-life treatments, said Nixon. After taking the core classes, the student could take elective courses in anthropology, theater or any other courses that will be dealing with end-of-life treatments. These elective courses will help students decide in what area to specialize, Nixon said. “Students can follow a plan according to what they want and need for where they think they might be going with these skills. People will also be better prepared to look at some of the challenges that are part and parcel of healthcare in the postmodern world,” Nixon said.

Another hope for the program is that it will help students and professors from different disciplines work together in a way that utilizes all the available tools on campus.

“We’re all on campus, but students interested in health-sciences tend to take courses there and not do very much with the main campus and vice versa. So this is a way to really let students know that there are a lot of people all over campus with similar interests and expertise that would be valuable to other students,” said Lori Roscoe, an assistant professor in the College of Medicine who helped Nixon develop the program.

The Masters program will also be flexible. Roscoe said the university would try to offer the program on the Web as well as in a business-learning format.

“We want to make it more flexible so that students who are working and want to get a Masters degree could also take the course,” Roscoe said.

The program has been in development for about two years, Roscoe said. A large number of the faculty at USF is involved in the program including the dean of the College of Medicine, Robert M. Daugherty, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Renu Khator, and several other professors from various departments on campus.

The new Master’s Program in Bioethics and Medical Humanities will begin this fall. For more information contact Kathryn Zahn at (813) 974-4181 or by e-mail at