PhD Program

Over the past 50 years, biomedical ethics and the fields of Medical Humanities and Social Medicine have developed and matured into major areas of scholarly inquiry. Professionals from philosophy, medicine, public health, nursing, the life sciences, law, social work, management, public policy, the social sciences, religious studies, and other areas have contributed to the biomedical ethics literature in important ways. The application of conceptual analytical techniques to ethical issues in science and medicine, and the emergence of empirically-based scholarship in ethics have helped to help inform the practice of medicine and to test traditional philosophical tenets of bioethics and medical humanities. To meet the need for scholars with the interdisciplinary training required for such research, the CWRU School of Medicine’s Bioethics Department created the nation's first Ph.D. in Bioethics in 2004. The program's mission is to train researchers to conceptualize, design, and conduct both normative ethical analysis and empirical research on bioethical issues.  

Training Multi-dimensional Scholars

The PhD program trains scholars in the conceptualization, design, and conduct of interdisciplinary research on issues related to bioethics and medical humanities. Each candidate will learn how to integrate their previously mastered disciplinary skills with other scholarly approaches to produce multi-dimensional analyses of bioethical research problems, and each will learn how to obtain funding for and lead the collaborative research teams that such analyses require. The doctoral program in bioethics and medical humanities has two primary objectives:        

  • To train scholars who have specific expertise in the conceptualization, design, and conduct of research on bioethical questions using the methodologies of normative bioethical analysis. 
  • To train scholars who have specific expertise in the conceptualization, design, and conduct of empirical research on bioethical questions as well as competency in normative bioethical analysis.

Develop your Expertise in Bioethics & Medical Humanities!

Candidates may enter the program from any discipline, but all doctoral students will become fluent with the ways in which bioethical scholarship employs concepts and methods from the humanities, social sciences, clinical research, jurisprudence, and health policy. The program’s curriculum is organized around five core areas:

  • Normative and social science theory and methodology
  • Research ethics
  • Clinical ethics
  • Medical Humanities and Social Medicine 
  • Public health ethics  

The Department of Bioethics provides PhD students with a multi-disciplinary learning environment, with faculty representing the fields of philosophy, social science, public health, law, medicine, and nursing.  Doctoral students are part of a fully integrated educational program within the department that includes undergraduate courses, a master’s program in bioethics and medical humanities, medical school teaching, international student exchanges, and postdoctoral training.  

Students in the Department’s doctoral program in bioethics and medical humanities will also learn how to better prepare both professional presentations and manuscripts for publication in peer review journals and how to compete for academic positions, NIH funding, and NSF funding.

We welcome a new class every other year with the next class entering Fall 2022. Applications will open in Fall 2021. 

Questions can be directed to