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Bioethics News:

Jonathan Marks

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State Bioethics Program Director Jonathan H. Marks has been named a fellow by the Hastings Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization devoted to informing policy, practice and knowledge of ethical issues in health, science and technology.

Marks, professor of bioethics, humanities, law and philosophy, is among 13 new Hastings Center fellows recognized this year for their work advancing scholarship and public understanding of complex ethical issues in health, health care, life sciences research and the environment.

The fellowship is a lifelong honor that acknowledges “individuals of outstanding accomplishment" whose work demonstrates "uncommon insight and impact in areas of critical concern,” according to the Hastings Center, which was founded in 1969 and publishes two journals, Hastings Center Report and Ethics & Human Research.

“I’m truly honored to join the ranks of such an esteemed group of scholars and practitioners from across the globe,” Marks said. “I’m also very grateful for this recognition of my efforts to push the boundaries of the discipline, and to promote human rights and public health ethics. I truly hope this award will help broaden and deepen the impact of my work.”

Besides leading the Bioethics Program, Marks is an affiliate faculty member in the Rock Ethics InstituteDepartment of PhilosophyPenn State LawSchool of International AffairsHuck Institutes of the Life Sciences, and the Humanities Department in the College of Medicine. He’s also a barrister and human rights lawyer at London-based Matrix Chambers.

Marks’ recent scholarship has focused on corporate influence in medicine, nutrition and public health, particularly public-private partnerships and other collaborations with corporations responsible for exacerbating the opioid crisis and noncommunicable diseases associated with obesity. In addition, he’s examined undocumented patients’ lack of access to health care; the public health, ethical and policy implications of hydraulic fracturing (aka “fracking”); the ethics of applying behavioral economics in health policy; professional ethics and human rights in detention and interrogation; and the ethical implications of neuroscience in national security.

“If you ask me what my life’s mission is, it’s to help us create institutions, organizations and societies that promote the kinds of ethical behaviors that we would like to see in ourselves and others,” he said. “I’m not an academic who just speaks to his fellow academics, but someone who tries to speak to as large an audience as possible.”

Penn State Bioethics Program Director Jonathan H. Marks was among the presenters at the recent TEDxPSU "On the Horizon" conference.  Credit: TEDxPSU . All Rights Reserved.

Marks is author of “The Perils of Partnership: Industry Influence, Institutional Integrity, and Public Health” (Oxford University Press, 2019), which was a finalist for the North American Society for Social Philosophy Book Award. A critical assessment of corporate influence in public health, the book expanded on Marks’ 2017 TED talk, “In Praise of Conflict,” which has been viewed nearly 1.5 million times.

Meanwhile, his writing has appeared in numerous high-profile publications, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Nation, The New England Journal of Medicine, American Journal of Public Health, and American Journal of Bioethics.

Marks’ article, “Trust in Crises and Crises in Trust,” was published in a recent special issue of the Hastings Center Report. In it, he examines how corporations, governments, nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations routinely fail during times of crisis.

In so many cases, Marks said, the institution in question sought to deny or downplay the problem, deflect responsibility, or employ other tactics out of what he calls “the crisis playbook.”

As it happens, the subject also serves as the basis for his next book, as well as the talk he delivered at the recent TEDxPSU “On the Horizon” conference.

“These tactics — often the result of advice from public relations firms, crisis management groups and legal advisers — are not only ethically problematic, but they usually make things worse for the institution they are intended to protect,” said Marks, who’s working on another book about pandemic ethics and structural injustice. “I contend that ethicists have much to contribute to so-called ‘crisis management.’ If, instead of focusing primarily on bolstering trust, institutions work to restore their integrity and trustworthiness, they will not only handle crises in ways that are more ethical and more effective, but they also stand a better chance of avoiding crises in the first place.”

Before coming to Penn State, Marks was a Greenwall Fellow in Bioethics and Health Policy at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins Universities. And he was previously the Edmond J. Safra Faculty Fellow in Ethics at Harvard University, where from 2009 to 2015 he participated in its Lab on Institutional Corruption. He also has participated as an expert on law, ethics and human rights in meetings of the World Health Organization, the National Academies, the U.S. Defense Health Board and the Royal Society.


Click here for more information on Marks’ work.


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By Josh McAuliffe

Borland Project Space, Feb 19-March 11 Expanding Capacities of Care

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — “Expanding Capacities of Care,” a nine-session series that takes a cross-disciplinary approach to exploring wellness and the complex role of caregivers, will open on Feb. 19 in the College of Arts and Architecture’s Borland Project Space.

The free series is open to the public and runs through March 11. Funded in part by the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, the series will offer diverse programing that includes animated film screenings, literature discussion, lectures, writing exercises and hands-on creating.

Feb. 19, 1-2 p.m. “Animating Stories: art/science/wellness collaborations rooted in Story Circles and mental wellbeing”

Experience three animated documentary short films hosted by the filmmakers, Bill Doan, director of the Arts and Design Research Incubator (ADRI), professor of theatre, artist-in-residence in the College of Nursing and 2019-20 Penn State Laureate; and Cynthia White, ADRI filmmaker and adjunct research associate.

Produced by ADRI in the College of Arts and Architecture, the films have been screened at more than 20 film festivals worldwide and won several awards of distinction. Visit for more information about the films.

Feb. 21, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. “Exploring Professional Caregiver Ethics ‘To Infinity and Beyond’”

Join Michele Mekel, associate director of Penn State’s Bioethics Program, for an interactive session that will explore professional caregiver ethics through the lens of freely available short speculative and science fiction literary works by a mix of authors from various perspectives.

Feb. 22, Noon-1 p.m. “Processing: Examining the Multiple Realities of Health Crises via Matters of Care”

Brandi Lewis, dual doctoral candidate in art education and women's, gender and sexuality studies, will explore the questions of “How does medical technology mediate understanding and experience of a health emergency or disabling event?” and “What are the impacts of biometric data and care-providing hardware/software that create distance from the embodied patient experience?”

This talk examines care ethics during a crisis by noticing the mundane aspects of a hospital room — paying attention to small, annoying or quiet things that affect a person's healing — and their impacts on patient care.

Feb. 23, 1-3 p.m. “Unmasking Professional Identity, Moral Injury and the Stressors of Caregiving”

Mark Stephens, associate dean for medical education in the Penn State College of Medicine at University Park, will host an immersive and transformative session that invites participants to engage in the ancient art of mask-making, a powerful tool for self-expression and reflection, as an exercise to explore professional identity, moral injury and the stressors of caregiving.

Feb. 26, 3:30-4:30 p.m. “Wayfinding: Arts-based Autoethnography for Healing and Self-Recovery"

Artist, educator and emerging scholar Glynnis Reed-Conway, a doctoral candidate in art education and women's, gender and sexuality studies, will share artworks and other images in a presentation on "Wayfinding," as seen in her arts-based, autoethnographic research for her doctoral dissertation.

Feb. 27, Noon-1 p.m. “Weaving Quiet Together”

Alongside Marie Huard, doctoral candidate in art education, find quiet in the simple process of moving a needle over and under, over and under with soft and textured yarns as you create a small hand weaving in the company of friends. All materials and instruction provided.

Engaging in patterns of movement has been shown to help makers enter a state of mind similar to that of meditative practice. Beginning and experienced weavers will all enjoy a sense of creative well-being.

Feb. 29, Noon-1 p.m. “Kaleidoscope PA: A Multi-Disciplinary Entrepreneurial Journey in Art and Wellness”

During an interactive session, Sarah Zappe, assistant dean for teaching and learning and director of the Leonhard Center for Enhancement of Engineering Education in the College of Engineering, will share details of her journey in art and wellness entrepreneurship.

In summer 2023, Zappe launched Kaleidoscope PA, LLC, which she describes as an art wellness community. She teaches watercolor and other art approaches in various locations in Centre County.

As an educational psychologist who has worked in engineering education for almost 15 years, she stumbled upon watercolor during the COVID-19 pandemic and began to realize the wellness potential inherent in the creative process. Students, faculty and staff interested in how to incorporate wellness with art and how to launch an art-related LLC are encouraged to attend.

March 11, Noon-1 p.m. “Building Capacities of Care Across the Disciplines: Collaboration in Education”

Aaron Knochel, associate professor of art education; Michele Mekel, associate director of Penn State’s Bioethics Program; and Christa Wilk, medical student, will discuss revision of an interdomain general education course through interdisciplinary collaboration.

March 11, 3:30-5:30 p.m. “Poetically Processing the Care Experience from Both Sides of the Patient-Provider Relationship”

Michele Mekel, associate director of Penn State’s Bioethics Program, will engage poetry as a creative writing genre that enables reflective processing of care experiences, which can help medical professionals in managing moral injury and burnout.

Workshop participants will be exposed to Ekphrasis, the use of detailed description of a work of visual art as a literary device, and other prompt-based approaches. Following the writing exercise, attendees will be invited to share their care-based poetic reflections, or another care-based poetic work they have written.

Bring a pen, pencil and paper, or a charged electronic device, for your word creations.

Chloe Connor Headshot

Chloe Connor, a 2022 Penn State Bioethics and Medical Humanities Minor graduate, has accepted a two-year post-baccalaureate fellowship with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Department of Bioethics. As part of the fellowship, Ms. Connor will conduct mentored theoretical and empirical bioethics research, and will participate in clinical ethics consultations, institutional review board deliberations, and case conferences. 

“Without Penn State’s Bioethics and Medical Humanities Minor, I would not have discovered my passion for the field of bioethics,” said Connor. “The Bioethics and Medical Humanities Minor provided me with a strong foundation in ethical analysis and instilled in me a deep curiosity for many bioethical areas of inquiry. Professor Mekel has been a fantastic mentor. She worked with me to tailor my bioethics capstone project to my goals and interests. In fact, the capstone project solidified my interest in bioethics research and formed the bulk of my writing sample for the NIH the application.”

Ms. Connor is currently completing a Fulbright Fellowship at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, where she is doing research and earning an M.Sc. in public health.

“Witnessing a tremendously talented student find their passion in bioethics is truly rewarding,” said Michele Mekel, associate director of the Penn State Bioethics Program. “Poised to change the world, Ms. Connor marshals outstanding acumen in science and bioethics, an uplifting attitude, and an unassailable internal compass will ensure she leaves a positive and lasting mark on public health law and ethics. I’m honored to have played a role in her education.”

Following the NIH bioethics fellowship, she will attend Harvard Law School. Ultimately, Ms. Connor plans to pursue a career in public health law.

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Priya Devanarayan Profile Headshot

Priya Devanarayan, a Penn State senior majoring in Biology and minoring in Bioethics and Medical Humanities, received the 2023 John W. Oswald Award for Outstanding Leadership. Established in 1983, the Oswald Award, one of the most esteemed honors for graduating seniors at Penn State, recognizes various fields of university leadership. Ms. Devanarayan’s honor is for the Scholarship category.

“I am immensely grateful to be recognized for this honor at Penn State,” said Devanarayan. “I am passionate about serving my local communities and using research as a means for advocacy, especially in the context of healthcare to make tangible changes. Professor Mekel has been an extraordinary mentor over the past few years, and I have her to thank for inspiring me to make bioethics and ethical leadership a core component of my undergraduate career and my future career as a physician.”

Ms. Devanarayan’s scholarship has focused on the ethical, legal, and policy implications of unauthorized pelvic exams administered to anesthetized patients at teaching hospitals as part of medical education and training. She conducted extensive research and academic analysis on this topic, including a bioethics capstone, a Schreyer Honors College thesis, and various scholarly conference presentations.

In addition, she shared her insights with her peers in bioethics classes. As to the latter, she imparted more than knowledge—she inspired others with her passion for justice in healthcare and her ethical stewardship in the promotion of social change.

“To see a student engage in the self-directed way that Ms. Devanarayan has done on a topic that offers academic and real-world implications is rare,” wrote her nominator, Michele Mekel, associate director of the Bioethics Program and Ms. Devanarayan’s faculty mentor. “To see a student become an advocate for victims of an unethical practice in a field they wish to pursue is particularly impressive and demonstrates tremendous leadership and virtue; it is such intrepidness that Ms. Devanarayan has exhibited and continues to exhibit through her work,” said Mekel.

Following graduation, Ms. Devanarayan, who has served as an emergency medical technician since 2021, will attend medical school at Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, PA.

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Jonathan H. Marks, director of the Bioethics Program at The Pennsylvania State University, and professor of bioethics, humanities, philosophy and law, has received a research residency from the Brocher Foundation, a leading independent bioethics research institution based in Geneva, Switzerland. During his summer 2023 residency, Marks will work on a project reframing the way we think about pandemic justice and the role of public health infrastructure in pandemic preparedness.

“I’m delighted to be returning to the Brocher Foundation,” said Marks, whose first residency at the Foundation led to his book, “The Perils of Partnership: Industry Influence, Institutional Integrity, and Public Health”—published by Oxford University Press in 2019 and shortlisted for the North American Society for Social Philosophy’s book prize.  

Marks anticipates that his time at Brocher will enhance his current research project, much as it did the previous one.

“Brocher provides a wonderfully supportive environment for research and writing,” Marks said.  “And being in Geneva again will give me the opportunity to engage with World Health Organization staff working on pandemic preparedness and response.”

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Penn State's intercollege Bioethics Program has joined with the PSU Art Education Department and the PSU Communication Arts and Sciences Department to create an exciting and meaningful breakout session for the first Penn State SETI Conference on June 27-30, 2022, in State College, PA.  

The conference-long breakout session, In Search of (Techno-Bio)Signatures from the Light of the Past in the Present and Beyond, focuses on the ethics of potential communication with extraterrestrial life via the arts, bioethics, the humanities, and the social sciences in order to elicit an appropriate, informed approach using a combination of methodologies—especially participatory action research.

Conference registration is open until June 3 at:\

More information on the conference is available at:

Questions may be directed to


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