Ethics or not
February 5, 2013 7:59 AM   Subscribe

When the AIDS crisis showed up, I literally put my education on pause. I figured I would spend the next 5 years caring for friends until they all died, and then go back to school. 23 years later, I have 23 years of experience in HIV research and social services and a B.A. in religious studies. Snowflaky details....

At the time, I was going to go to rabbinical school realized I was an atheist and dropped that plan. Now I have an opportunity to get my MS in Bioethics in a low residency program. However, I'm terrified that with the skills I have with that degree, I'll get stuck being a regulatory drone.

Things I do not want to do:
-Spend time reciting the 45 CFR 46/the Belmont report
-work for an IRB or similar regulatory committee
-spend time citing people for ethics violations.

Things I love:
-HIV research
-philosophy, I love the big questions.
-teaching and I'm good at it
-Engaging people in discussion and having fun with it

While I think what I really want is to be an academic, there is no way I can get a Ph.D. at this point in my life. I can't afford it and I cannot leave my job for full time school.

As an ethicist, is there something that I would love, something that would use my strengths and not send me down the deep dark hole of IRB/regulatory oversight? It seems like most positions require an additional degree (RN, MD, JD, MSW).

Maybe I don't need a degree in Bioethics. Something else?

What am I looking for here, can you MeFites help me get creative?
posted by Sophie1 to Education (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you're looking to get a quick degree, an RN is the way to go. If you have some college, you might get it down to 18 months. Also, it's cheap, you can get an RN at most Community Colleges.

Then you can do things like HIV Education, working with people who have HIV, to help them live long, healthy lives.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:03 AM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding the masters in public health.. also you can teach on the community college level with a master's.
posted by spunweb at 8:04 AM on February 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'd look into social work school. That would qualify you to do teaching, individual and group counseling, community outreach, research and writing, and other activities that seem to fit with your skills and interests. And most programs take 2 years, sometimes less if you can get credit for work experience.
posted by decathecting at 8:12 AM on February 5, 2013

I have a friend with a masters in Public Health who is teaching at a university and seems to be doing a lot of the things you'd like to be doing (in fact, I could put you in touch, and she has the same name as you so you could probably Google her). Before she did that, she worked for the AIDS Action Committee helping people plan sensible and realistic public health campaigns and combatting a lot of the stereotypes that people had (and have) about people living with AIDS. So it's a lot more about practical ethics and less philosophical but I know her life has been incredibly rewarding and she's gotten to do a lot of good in the world and influence a lot of people both with her work at AAC and her work now at BU.
posted by jessamyn at 8:20 AM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I was looking at getting my master's in Public Health I was annoyed because at the school I most wanted to go to (Univ. of Texas) all the programs were very HIV research focused and that wasn't my passion. So, yeah nth looking at MPH programs.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:22 AM on February 5, 2013

I guess I missed writing a key point here. I already work at a major university in HIV research. I'm well respected in the HIV activist and research/academic communities. I have a great job, but I just really want to continue my education and have some upward mobility.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:26 AM on February 5, 2013

So are you saying you do or you do not want to pursue a second or masters degree? It's not clear from your question. I understand you don't want to leave your work for full-time education. But would you pursue a degree if you could do it part time? Or are you trying to avoid extra schooling altogether?
posted by greta simone at 8:51 AM on February 5, 2013

I am an RN, MPH. I could never afford to leave full-time nursing to take a position in public health, as MPH salaries, at least the ones I investigated, are in an entirely different nanogalaxy. I'm talking in the range of half the salary of my RN job. Everything I've done using my MPH credential has been as a volunteer.

While I'm not in HIV but hepatitis for the past 15 years, it seems to me that my field has even less infrastructure and opportunities to network, economically and professionally, than yours. There's no Ryan White act for hepatitis, and no guarantee patients will be evaluated, much less treated. In fact, we depend on HIV infrastructure (social workers, case managers, etc.) for co-infected hepatitis patients who are poorly insured.

If your focus in research is social service delivery rather than pharmaceutical, while an MPH could prove helpful in becoming a PI (but perhaps you already are) or running programs at a social service agency, I don't know that it would increase your income. Not sure this is your primary goal, but this might be of interest to you.
posted by citygirl at 8:52 AM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

What about working in government relations or lobbying for an AIDS advocacy organization? Lots of that role is meeting with policy makers and educating them on the issue, which it sounds like would be easy for you with your name recognition and grasp of policy. Your reputation as a long term credible advocate is also extremely valuable in this role, since policy makers will only listen to people who clearly know what they are talking about.

For this, I would imagine an MPP being more valuable than an MPH, though I also know people in this field who have neither of those degrees.
posted by deliciae at 9:14 AM on February 5, 2013

You know that any PhD program worth its salt will fund you decently, right?
posted by tapir-whorf at 10:14 AM on February 5, 2013

You know that any PhD program worth its salt will fund you decently, right?

I'm kind of assuming the OP knows this given they work for a university. However, if they're the sole source of income in a multiple person household, grad student wages potentially puts them below the poverty line. (Me with two (hypothetical) kids is the poverty line, roughly.)
posted by hoyland at 11:19 AM on February 5, 2013

Ask at your institution and in your department. Ask them where you could go from here, with which degree.

Some IRBers are engaged in training others or consulting to help people put together their research projects. You might enjoy that (but it may not pay more).

If you're good at what you do, you might be doing a great deal of community engagement. To be good at that, and to understand regulatory/ethics could be quite valuable. (It's practically cross cultural work). Pick up some program evaluation experience and you'll have even more value.

But it's idiosyncratic. Which is why you should be networking with people at your institution.

On the other hand, having a masters in anything will get you some mileage. Having the masters you're talking about, which is totally credible in a research setting -- I think it would serve you well, compared to not having a masters.
posted by vitabellosi at 2:29 PM on February 5, 2013

Also -- ask the masters program what their students are doing now.
posted by vitabellosi at 2:32 PM on February 5, 2013

I read the part where you left rabbinical training because you are an athiest, but have you considered becoming a hospital chaplain? Chaplains play a big role in patient care and serve on many hospital ethics committees. With your background, you may not need any additional degrees and there are direct, short course programs all over the country. The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education has some info and links. Chaplains are great people and provide the power of presence for people in need; many are spiritual and humanistic without being religious.

I met lots of chaplains at the Univ. of Washington Summer Seminar in Healthcare Ethics. That program is a week, lots of fun, totally interesting, and is a good introduction to bioethics in practice. It's not cheap, but you can most likely get the lower price if you talk to them and explain your community involvement.

I think you are correct to be cautious regarding jumping into the masters alone. I am not sure it will get you where you want to go without an additional credential. Additionally, I googled low residency and not much came up. Is this an online program? I would say you should be even more cautious if that is the case. Bioethics is about perspectives and weighing competing forces, which is best discussed in person. I have tried to have ethics discussions via email/text and it is very difficult compared to face to face (probably because of the nuance, emotion, unspoken/nonverbal communications, etc).
posted by artdesk at 2:39 PM on February 5, 2013

You know that any PhD program worth its salt will fund you decently, right?

For public health, this may not be true of the top programs.

MPH programs vary widely in their practice/research balance. I suggest going for an MPH at a program with a strong research emphasis or, even better, an MSPH if that is available as a standalone degree (not on the way to a PhD). An MSW may also be an option for you.
posted by Neneh at 2:40 PM on February 5, 2013

Also, don't overlook the Masters in Public Policy. I have one, from a UC school, and it might fit your bill.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:44 PM on February 6, 2013

Also, see this: bioethics resources on the web
posted by vitabellosi at 9:20 AM on February 17, 2013

« Older looking for articles on the depopulation of US...   |   How do I download a folder of emails in Hotmail to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.