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The board members of the newly established Penn Bioethics Society, Perry Goffner, Susannah Rogers, Ruchita Pendse and Jessica Davis, enjoy having philosophical discussions about bioethics on College Green.

Credit: Isabella Cuan

Amidst the interdisciplinary culture that permeates campus life, students now have another group to consider: the Penn Bioethics Society. The society, in the works since April, has launched and will be holding its inaugural general body meeting this Wednesday.

Founded by members of the Penn Bioethics Journal, the society will serve as an exploratory outlet for students of all academic disciplines. “There’s such a budding interest in bioethics here on campus, and people aren’t necessarily interested in writing but still want to have a community or place to network within bioethics,” Director of Programming Susannah Rogers, a College sophomore, said.

Although the society stems from the journal, it will fill a different niche. “Last year, we kind of came to the realization that there were a lot of associate editors [on the journal] who weren’t committed to how much work it would take to make a journal but who still were really, really interested in bioethics,” said College senior Perry Goffner, who is vice president of the society and an associate editor of the PBJ.

“It really seemed like it would be more appropriate to have two separate organizations — one that was focused on publishing a great quality publication and the other that would be focused on doing quality programming for undergrads,” said College senior Ruchita Pendse, who is president of the society and editor-in-chief of the PBJ.

The society aims to use this programming — which will range from public policy and clinical ethics decision-making to engineering and technology development — to expose its members to the interdisciplinary nature of bioethics. Board members plan to host events such as bioethics faculty panels and luncheons, networking sessions and undergraduate research spotlights.

The society’s board hopes to clarify the definition of bioethics itself and to emphasize the extent of its applicability to other disciplines across schools at Penn. “Bioethics is a field that addresses the ethical implications that arise from advances in science, medicine and technology,” Goffner said. “I think some people, especially at Penn sometimes, think bioethics might be confined to the clinical arena or just to medicine, but bioethics has vast implications in the sciences [and] in the legal sphere. It’s a really wide and interesting field.”

Jessica Davis, a Nursing sophomore and the director of communications for the society, spoke to the relevance of bioethics in Nursing specifically. “I found that every single course that I’m taking somehow relates to [bioethics]. ... Nurses are the ones who need to advocate for the patients and make sure that they’re getting all their rights, so that’s a very big ethical thing to make sure that we’re doing our part,” she said.

Though the society’s board has yet to meet its constituency, over 160 students from all four schools have signed up for the listserv.

There’s really genuine interest from a lot of undergrads,” Pendse said.

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