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Law and Ethics Go Hand in Hand to Help Strengthen Individuals and Communities

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MD Anderson Cancer Center offers an internship in clinical ethics. Interns in the program learn more about clinical, research and/or organizational ethics and truly contribute to activities and projects of the Section of Integrated Ethics here. 

One of the interns, Lilian Alvarez, tells us more about her experience in clinical ethics.

Lilian, tell us more about yourself.

I have a background and degree in philosophy and more than five years of community health education experience. 

I have worked for several other health organizations, including the UT Medical Branch in Galveston and various breast cancer non-profit organizations, managing and developing health education programs. I have also worked extensively with local communities, providing health education and organizing local health coalitions.

My main interest is to help strengthen individuals and communities to become sufficiently empowered so as to make well-informed health decisions. My interest in clinical ethics stems from a desire to see that every patient's rights and autonomy is well respected in the health setting given their medical situation.

Why did you apply for a clinical internship?

My goal was to obtain first-hand knowledge of clinical ethics in practice and observe situations with major ethical dilemmas. Also, to learn the method for analyzing ethical dilemmas in the hospital setting and how to participate in the decision-making process.

What have you done so far during your internship?

I've attended weekly clinical rounds with physicians, social workers, patient advocates and clinical ethicists to discuss patient cases. I've also attended several monthly events where physicians visit the community to provide palliative and hospice care to patients.

The "easiest" part of this internship was having the opportunity to attend all activities and rounds related to clinical ethics. The most challenging part of the internship has been to maintain focus without becoming too involved with the varying cases and not "take home" the patient issues and dilemmas of the day.
    
What are the most important things you've learned during this experience?

I have truly learned what it means to be a clinical ethicist and about the current status of the field. It was refreshing to know that many others within the field have the same passion to protect patient rights. Also, I've gotten very good advice from my mentor on the best academic route to becoming a clinical ethicist.

What comes next?

I want to utilize my law degree in combination with my experience as a clinical ethics intern to better protect the rights of the patient in and out of the hospital setting.

 

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