March 19, 2013

Bioethicist lecture looks at personalized medicine

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- As medical breakthroughs allow scientists to identify a growing number of genetic disease markers, the opportunities for personalized medicine based on a person’s individual genetic makeup are rapidly moving from science fiction to science fact.

An expert on personalized medicine will discuss the responsibilities and potential perils that these medical advances create during a lecture at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Father Kevin T. FitzGerald will present the 2013 John & Marsha Ryan Bioethicist-in-Residence lecture at the Southern Illinois University School of Law Center for Health Law and Policy.

FitzGerald will present “The Promise and Peril of Personalized Medicine,” at 5 p.m., Wednesday, March 20, in the courtroom at the Hiram H. Lesar Law Building.  The lecture is free and the public is encouraged to attend.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographer and camera crews are welcome to cover the lecture. To make arrangements for interviews or for more information on the lecture, contact Alicia Ruiz, the law school’s director of communications and outreach, at 618/453-8700.

FitzGerald, a Jesuit priest, is the Dr. David Lauler Chair of Catholic Health Care Ethics in the Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University.  He is also a research associate professor in the Department of Oncology at the Georgetown University Medical Center. 

“As a Jesuit priest, geneticist, and bioethicist, Dr. and Fr. FitzGerald brings a trifecta of expertise to the bioethical and biomedical issues inherent in personalized medicine,” said Michele Mekel, an assistant professor at the SIU School of Law.

As a speaker, FitzGerald is “engaging and entertaining and he has the rare ability to make ‘rocket science’ both comprehensible to and humanized for ‘mere mortals’,” Mekel said.

FitzGerald is regular media interview on topics including human genomic research, cloning, stem cell research and personalized medicine.  He is a founding member of “Do No Harm,” a member of the ethics committee for March of Dimes, and a member of the Stem Cell Research Commission for the state of Maryland.  His experience also includes serving as a member of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ advisory committee on genetics, health and society.

He earned doctorates in bioethics and molecular biology from Georgetown University, and a master of divinity in theology from the Jesuit School of Theology.  FitzGerald also earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Cornell University.

Law Professor W. Eugene Basanta, the Southern Illinois Healthcare Professor of Law, said FitzGerald’s background as Jesuit priest, geneticist and bioethicist provides a unique background to discuss scientific and ethical issues involved in genetics.

This is the ninth bioethicist-in-residence lecture, and the seventh since John G. and Marsha C. Ryan endowed the visiting lecture series.

Founded in 2006, The John & Marsha Ryan Bioethicist-in-Residence supports an annual residence and lecture by a law or medicine ethics scholar for the SIU schools of law and medicine. The selected presenter visits classes at both schools and organizes interdisciplinary educational activities for students, residents and faculty. The presenter also interacts with students and offers a public lecture on the scholarship as it relates to law and medicine.