Fellowship Uses Conduct of Medical Professionals in Nazi Germany to Discuss Ethics
Laura Sherwood, a fourth-year medical student at UTHSC, was chosen by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FAPSE) to participate in an international program that uses the conduct of physicians and other professionals in Nazi Germany as a launching point for an intensive study of contemporary ethics through a historical lens.
Sherwood, a native of Ooltewah, Tennessee, is one of only 14 medical students who will be participating in the unique program that begins today and runs through June 30. Now in its seventh year, FASPE is offered to students in five professional disciplines – business, journalism, law, medicine and religion. This year, a total of 63 students from across the disciplines were chosen from more than 700 applicants from around the world.
“The basic idea is that we focus on the power of place to discuss ethical issues,” Sherwood said of the track for medial students. “There will be break-out sessions and small group discussions. The question is how did medical professionals – people who had taken the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm – do horrible things? How did that happen? What philosophies enabled them to do this? We don’t want to make the same mistakes again.”
The fellowship begins in Berlin. There, students study the Hippocratic Oath and the philosophical question of evil, and meet with a Holocaust survivor. They travel on to Poland, visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau, and conclude in Krakow. After the program, each fellow will submit a final written essay focused on a contemporary ethical issue of his or her choice. Select essays will be published in the annual FASPE Journal, which showcases essays in all five disciplines.
“It’s an incredible opportunity, but an unsettling topic,” Sherwood said. “But as medical professionals, we have to do that – face unsettling topics. The idea is that we each will write a paper that we can expand later into something we can submit for publication.”
C. David Goldman, founder of FASPE, said, “By educating students about the causes of the Holocaust and the power of their chosen professions, FASPE seeks to instill a sense of professional responsibility for the ethical and moral choices that the fellows will make in their careers and in their professional relationships.”
Sherwood graduated from Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, with a double bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and theater. On graduating from UTHSC in December, she plans to specialize in family medicine with an emphasis in women’s health.