This is just another example of how James Madison University is institutionalizing civic engagement. In October, students in Dr. Lori Britt’s class on Facilitating Dialogue and Deliberation tested their skills with students enrolled in Dr. James Herrick’s Infectious Diseases biology class (Bio 447/547). Using a deliberative approach, students engaged in a bioethics conversation to weigh the options of translational medicine, including whether it should be fully available, of limited availability, or restricted to the public. The facilitation team was led by Communications majors Jessica Martin, Illana Doroteo, and Marissa Quander, who prepared and aimed to enable a discussion that would demonstrate how to go about presenting new-found research and information regarding translational medicine to the public.
The facilitation team conducted a pre-survey on the bioethics students positions on translational medicine. Facilitators then gave bioethics students the following chart in the slide show below summarizing the three translational medicine options.
Should Translational Medicine be Accessible to the Public?
After reading about the options, the facilitation team posed questions to bioethics students around each of the options to probe differing views and beliefs, reasons to support or oppose each option, and the implications of different decisions. While the bioethics students who participated in the dialogue upheld their position on a limited availability approach before and after the discussion, post-survey data showed that the dialogue helped inform them of alternative ideas, the role of public opinion, new perspectives on each of the choices, and the implications and consequences of alternative approaches.
In addition, through dialogue, bioethics students gained a better understanding of why one option may be valuable to some people, even if they didn’t fully agree with it. The discussion also helped bioethics students practice explaining concepts and make proposals to important members of society who are NOT scientists. One participant said that the facilitation was helpful in that it brought up topics the class wouldn’t have thought about, and allowed the group discussion to move away from groupthink since they are like-minded and always agree during their normal discussions.
Because of the facilitation, there will likely be more collaborations between science and SCOM students. Stay tuned!