Many people have made significant contributions to the success of the Center for Practical Bioethics. Some, though, have gone beyond the call, making extraordinary efforts to advance the Center’s mission to raise and respond to ethical issues in health and healthcare.
For those individuals we have conferred a special designation - Center Fellow. The designation honors each person for their contributions to the Center and positions each to continue their work with the organization.
“Each of these individuals has worked tirelessly to advance the mission and vision of the Center,” says John Carney, president and CEO of the Center. “They are proven professionals and scholars with an undeniable commitment to the Center.”
Erika Blacksher, PhD
Erika Blacksher, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her research examines the ethical and policy implications of social determinants of and inequalities in health, particularly as they relate to U.S. health system reform, the ethics of health promotion, theories of social justice, and participatory and deliberative approaches to advance health equity. She also has created and contributed to innovative programs that engage diverse audiences (from lay citizens to state legislators) in moral dialogue about contentious healthy policy issues.
She teaches courses that examine ethical issues raised by the social gradient in health and social and health policies to close the health gap. Her training and experience include receiving a PhD and MA (bioethics) from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, two years as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholar at Columbia University in New York City, three years as a research scholar for public health ethics and policy at The Hastings Center in Garrison, New York, and five years at The Center for Practical Bioethics, a community-based bioethics center in Kansas City, Mo. Blacksher’s undergraduate degrees are in philosophy and in journalism from the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
Gary Pettett, MD
When it comes to research involving human subjects, Gary Pettett, MD, believes we need more “principled investigators” than “principal investigators.”
Dr. Pettett draws that conclusion from more than twenty years of experience in research bioethics. He was formerly the chair of the Pediatric Institutional Review Board at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, and was a member of its Research Council.
Dr. Pettett first became associated with the Center in the late 1990s when the Center began forming a consortium of institutional review boards. Dr. Pettett and Don Reynolds, a program associate at the Center, formed the Kansas City IRB Consortium to share best practices, produce common educational programs for all IRB members, and discuss IRB issues and concerns in a confidential manner.
The concept of the Center for Practical Bioethics is unique,” says Dr. Pettett. “With all the challenges in clinical research these days, it is imperative for professionals to find a neutral ground to discuss these issues. The Center plays that role.”
As a Fellow at the Center, Dr. Pettett says he will continue pursuing areas of interest, including the ethical dimensions of human subject research and professionalism in medicine.
The two areas are closely linked,” Dr. Pettett says. “When the public loses confidence in the moral character of medicine and research, government responds with regulatory mandates. And that inserts new challenges into the physician/patient relationship.”
Dr. Pettett believes the public views medicine skeptically these days because physicians have lost their professional anchor. “We need to speak in the patient’s best interest and less about our own welfare,” he says. “We need to become an advocate for our patients.”
Robert Potter, MD, PhD
Some people never really retire. They just keep moving to the next challenge.
Such is the case with Dr. Robert Potter.
He spent ten years at the Center for Practical Bioethics advancing ethics in the medical profession. That was after receiving a doctorate in religion and psychology with an emphasis in ethics from the University of Chicago Divinity School. And that was after retiring from a 30-year internal medicine and geriatrics practice in Kansas City, Kansas.
He was also associate clinical professor of medicine for Kansas University School of Medicine during his entire career.
Today, Dr. Potter is the Director of the Interprofessional Ethics Fellowship at the Center for Ethics in Healthcare at Oregon Health Sciences University. “This position allows me to continue what I always wanted to do—raise the ethical excellence of health care professionals,” Dr. Potter says. “I am now remembering so much of what the Center for Practical Bioethics taught me in the formative past.”
A modest statement, to be sure, considering Dr. Potter’s significant contributions to the Center for Practical Bioethics. Those contributions began in the early 1990s as Dr. Potter observed the growing influence of the Center through the work of Myra Christopher and Dr. Bill Bartholome.
"The Center was starting the discussion on medical ethics in a very important way, certainly raising the bar on ethics and professionalism,” Dr. Potter says. Dr. Potter believes the Center practices “bipolar bioethics,” allowing for individuals and organizations with disparate viewpoints to find a safe place to identify common ground.
That capacity, Dr. Potter says, created a national presence for the Center and its work. “Our project with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Community State Partnerships to Improve End-of-Life Care) really placed the Center in the national spotlight,” he says. “Kansas City became a practical lab to try things before going national. Bioethics was not just an abstract concept anymore.”
As for his future as a Fellow of the Center for Practical Bioethics, Dr. Potter sees much work to be done on the social justice issue of the day – providing medical care for all at an affordable price.
"It’s a compelling call that I sense is being heard by my medical students in Oregon,” he says. “If we can’t deal with that, then bioethic's ability to guide medicine is greatly diminished.”
Don Reynolds, J.D.
From mortgage banker to advocate for the disabled. That’s not a career path many take. For Don Reynolds, it’s a path that has led to his designation as a Fellow at the Center for Practical Bioethics.
Reynolds joined the Center as a member in the summer of 1985.You could say he didn’t have much choice. His sister, Mary Beth Blake, is a co-founder of the organization. “Mary Beth was central to my initial involvement with the Center,” Reynolds says, “and joining was my symbolic support of her effort.”
Fortunately, his contributions over the past two decades have been much more than symbolic. Reynolds’ initial endeavor with the Center was a joint project with the Jackson County Public Administrator to solicit expressions of healthcare preferences from people who the Public Administrator served as guardian. “The project was intended to address the limitations that the Missouri Supreme Court's decision in the Nancy Cruzan case placed on a guardian's authority to make end-of-life healthcare decisions for wards,” says Reynolds.
The project established a relationship with the University of Missouri – Kansas City’s Institute for Human Development to address healthcare decision-making by people with developmental disabilities. The thread of this work led to Reynold’s involvement in Last Passages - a national project that addressed end-of-life healthcare decision-making by and for people with disabilities.
Since that beginning, Reynolds has been a committed advocate of long-term care ethics and to others that he refers to as “lesser situated.” Reynolds is credited with developing a person-centered methodology for involving people with disabilities in their healthcare, developing a mediation model for long-term care ethics case consultations, and using tele-ethics technology to conduct such case consultations.
He also wrote the first draft of what became one of the Center’s signature tools for individuals and their families to make practical preparations for end-of-life decisions – the Caring Conversations® workbook. As a Center Fellow, Reynolds maintains his ties to the Center, serving as a resource for the Center to continue addressing the ethics issues that confront people with disabilities.
George Flanagan, DMin, MA
Dr. George Flanagan served for 20 years as Chaplain and clinical ethics consultant and ethics committee member/chair at the Kansas City VA Medical Center. He was the facility’s first Integrated Ethics Program Officer. He also served as a member of the Institutional Review Board of the Midwest Biomedical Research Foundation based at KCVA. In addition to frequent clinical ethics consultation, he provided periodic healthcare ethics education to all professional staff.
After retirement from KCVA in 2009, Dr. Flanagan joined the staff of the Center for Practical Bioethics as Program Associate for Clinical and Organizational Ethics. He has conducted workshops and provided consultation to hospital ethics committees throughout the Midwest, been a presenter in healthcare ethics for professional associations, and has served on the coordinating committee for National Healthcare Decisions Day.
Since 2011, he has assisted the Center as a volunteer, and now as a Fellow, while serving in specialized ministry to churches as an ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He continues to consult with hospital ethics committees in the Kansas City area. He is adjunct faculty in healthcare ethics at Rockhurst University and Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences. As a Board Certified Chaplain (Retired), he continues to serve on the regional certification committee for Association of Professional Chaplains. He received the B.A. in Communication from William Jewell College; the M.A. in Speech Communication from University of Central Missouri; the M.Div. and the D.Min. degrees from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.