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Arthur Caplan, one of the country’s most prominent bioethicists, will be leaving Penn for New York University.

Starting July 1, Caplan will become the director of NYU’s newly created Division of Medical Ethics in the Department of Population Health at Langone Medical Center, NYU announced in a statement on March 16.

At Penn, Caplan served as director of the Center for Bioethics through January. The Center for Bioethics has since merged into the Perelman School of Medicine’s Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy.

He is also currently a professor of bioethics in the Medical School. He came to Penn in 1994.

“I am thrilled at the opportunity to come to NYU Langone Medical Center,” Caplan said in a statement. “The presence of an outstanding medical school, health system and research university in New York City creates enormous opportunities for bioethics teaching and research.”

He added that NYU’s global initiatives offer a “unique opportunity” to combine his interests in bioethics with public policy and health care practice.

Caplan said in an interview that NYU “had been trying to persuade me for awhile … They were very aggressive in saying we want you to come.”

Caplan formally accepted the position at NYU on Friday. Though Caplan’s wife currently lives in New York, he said that was not the reason behind the move.

Students at Penn who have worked closely with Caplan expressed surprise over the sudden announcement.

“I think it’s a huge loss for the bioethics community at Penn,” said College senior Chelsea Ott, the former president of the Penn Bioethics Society. “He’s been a great mentor to so many students, and it’s going to be hard to replace somebody like him. He really put bioethics at Penn on the map.”

Ott added that Caplan’s departure will leave “some big shoes to fill.”

Caplan regularly comments on bioethics and health care issues for, as well as in monthly articles for Medscape. He also frequently appears on news shows, and is the author or editor of more than 550 papers in peer-reviewed journals.

Despite this national presence, College sophomore and current PBS President Jacqui Kemmer said Caplan has been “incredibly accessible to us.

Ott pointed to regular meetings between students interested in bioethics at Penn and Princeton University as things that Caplan — who is a close adviser to PBS — has taken the lead on organizing in recent years.

Kemmer said she received a personal email from Caplan on Friday with news that he would be leaving Penn. In the email, Kemmer said, Caplan expressed that the position at NYU was “a really good opportunity for him and his family.”

“It definitely caught me by surprise,” she said. “It’ll be sad to see him to go, but we definitely wish him the best of luck in all that he does.”

Ott speculated that some recent hirings at Penn may have contributed to Caplan’s decision to take a position at NYU.

Within recent years, the University has added two prominent bioethicists — Jonathan Moreno and Ezekiel Emanuel — to its faculty as Penn Integrates Knowledge professors. Emanuel currently chairs the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy.

“It may be hard to have that many big fish in one place,” Ott said.

Kemmer added that she believes Caplan “may see NYU as an opportunity to do what he did here [at Penn] and build bioethics from the ground up.”

Caplan said he is “enthusiastic about [Emanuel] coming and the future of bioethics at Penn.”

He added that he will always be “a huge Penn fan.”

“I really like the students here in particular,” he said. “The most difficult thing for me is to lose the connection to the students. There’s a huge network of bioethics graduates now, and that’s fun to watch.”

The Medical School applauded Caplan for his time at Penn. In a statement, Larry Jameson, Medical School dean and executive vice president of the University Health System, called Caplan a “legend” in bioethics.

“There is no doubt that Dr. Caplan’s probing wisdom will be widely shared as always, and we wish him only the best as he creates a new department at NYU,” he said.

In addition to Caplan, Moreno and Emanuel, Penn has also drawn national attention for its offerings in bioethics through University President Amy Gutmann, who has chaired President Barack Obama’s Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues since 2009.

With the recent proposal of a minor in bioethics in the College of Arts and Sciences, some undergraduates at Penn have also turned their attention to the study of bioethical issues of late.

Caplan “was always one of the nicest guys on Penn’s campus,” said College junior Andrew Jakubowski, the editor-in-chief of the Penn Bioethics Journal, a publication that Caplan helped establish in 2004. “He was always a huge supporter of students, and it’s disappointing to hear he’ll be leaving.”

Though Kemmer does not believe Caplan’s departure will be a setback for Penn’s standing on the national stage of bioethics, she acknowledged that, come July, some things will change for groups like PBS. Still, she is looking forward to having an opportunity to work more closely with faculty like Moreno and Emanuel, she said.

“It’s a major loss, and I’m happy that I got my four years with him while I could,” Ott added. “I just can’t imagine bioethics at Penn without Art Caplan.”

Associate News Edtior Laura Cofsky contributed reporting to this article.

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