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CBSSM investigators Holly Witteman, Andrea Fuhrel-Forbis, Angela Fagerlin, and Brian Zikmund-Fisher, along with CBSSM alumni Peter Ubel and Andrea Angott will give a plenary talk at the Society for Medical Decision Making's 32nd Annual Meeting in Toronto on Monday, October 25.  The talk is titled, "Colostomy is Better than Death, but a 4% Chance of Death Might Be Better Than a 4% Chance of Colostomy: Why People Make Choices Seemingly At Odds With Their Stated Preferences." 

Abstract:

Purpose: When asked for their preference between death and colostomy, most people say that they prefer colostomy. However, when given the choice of two hypothetical treatments that differ only in that one has four percent chance of colostomy while the other has four percent additional chance of death, approximately 25% of people who say that they prefer colostomy actually opt for the additional chance of death. This study examined whether probability-sensitive preference weighting may help to explain why people make these types of treatment choices that are inconsistent with their stated preferences.

Method: 1656 participants in a demographically diverse online survey were randomly assigned to indicate their preference by answering either, “If you had to choose, would you rather die, or would you rather have a colostomy?†or, “If you had to choose, would you rather have a 4% chance of dying, or would you rather have a 4% chance of having a colostomy?†They were then asked to imagine that they had been diagnosed with colon cancer and were faced with a choice between two treatments, one with an uncomplicated cure rate of 80% and a 20% death rate, and another with an uncomplicated cure rate of 80%, a 16% death rate, and a 4% rate of colostomy.

Result: Consistent with our prior research, most people whose preferences were elicited with the first question stated that they preferred colostomy (80% of participants) to death (20%), but many then made a choice inconsistent with that preference (59% chose the treatment with higher chance of colostomy; 41% chose the treatment with higher chance of death). Compared to the first group, participants whose preferences were elicited with the 4% question preferred death (31%) over colostomy (69%) more often (Chi-squared = 24.31, p<.001) and their treatment choices were more concordant with their stated preferences (64% chose the treatment with higher chance of colostomy; 36% chose the treatment with higher chance of death, Chi-squared for concordance = 36.92, p<.001).

Conclusion: Our experiment suggests that probability-sensitive preference weighting may help explain why people’s medical treatment choices are sometimes at odds with their stated preferences. These findings also suggest that preference elicitation methods may not necessarily assume independence of probability levels and preference weights.


Funded by National Institutes of Health

Funding Years: 2014-2016

Nearly half of patients undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) nationwide are exposed to red blood cell (RBC) products. While large volumes (3+ units) of transfusions may be delivered to a given patient to preserve life in cases of acute blood loss, evidence suggests that even small amounts (1-2 units) of RBCs often transfused to address poor oxygen delivery are associated with a 16% increase in a patient's risk of mortality and a 27% increase in morbidity, even after case mix adjustment. It is vitally important to allocate RBC products appropriately, given both that cardiac surgery utilizes between 20-25% of the total national blood supply, and the Red Cross reports that 32 of their 36 regions had less than a day's supply available to meet hospital needs. In short, it is important to improve our understanding of how and in what context decisions are made regarding 1-2 units of RBCs, given its association with morbidity, mortality and resource utilization. Growing evidence suggests that some transfusions may be discretionary. In the state of Michigan, nearly 40% of CABG patients are exposed to 1-2 units of RBCs, although the absolute rate varies 32% across institutions. Center-specific variation in transfusion practices is likely attributed to thelack of consensus regarding the indications, setting and hematocrit trigger for transfusions. Given this uncertainty, transfusion rates may be the consequence of differences in organizational (e.g. protocols, types of decision-makers, lack of performance feedback regarding transfusion practice) and provider (e.g. knowledge, beliefs concerning the benefit/harm of transfusions, and inclination to transfuse) factors. Interventions to reduce the rate of unnecessary transfusions first require identifying the set of determinants (at the organizational or provider level) that mot fully explain the observed variation in RBC utilization across regional medical centers. We will use the prospective data and infrastructure of the Michigan Society of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeons Quality Collaborative (MSTCVS-QC), a consortium of all 33 cardiac surgical programs in Michigan, to: (1) Develop, pilot, and implement surveys to hospitals and clinical providers within the state of Michigan to describe determinants of 1-2 units of RBC transfusions during cardiac surgery, and (2) Identify the primary organizational and provider characteristics contributing to variability in transfusions. Results from this study will set the sage for a behavioral modification study aimed at reducing the rate of RBC transfusions in the setting of cardiac surgery.

PI(s): Richard Prager, Donald Likosky

Co-I(s): Darin Zahuranec, Min Zhang, Marc Zimmerman, Milo Engoren

Subjective Numeracy Scale

The Subjective Numeracy Scale (SNS) is a self-report measure of perceived ability to perform various mathematical tasks and preferences for the use of numerical versus prose information. The SNS has been validated against objective numeracy measures and found to predict comprehension of risk communications and ability to complete utility elicitations.

The 8-item scale contains no mathematics questions and has no correct or incorrect answers. Instead, it consists of 4 questions asking respondents to assess their numerical ability in different contexts and 4 questions asking them to state their preferences for the presentation of numerical and probabilistic information. The SNS is both reliable and highly correlated with the Lipkus, Samsa & Rimer (2001) numeracy measure, and it has been validated in both risk communication and utility elicitation domains.

For a PDF version of this document and the SNS instrument, click here: Subjective Numeracy Scale PDF.  

Please contact Angie Fagerlin for versions in Dutch, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese, and Spanish.

SNS Questions

For each of the following questions, please check the box that best reflects your answer:

  • How good are you at working with fractions? (Not at all good – Extremely good)
  • How good are you at working with percentages? (Not at all good – Extremely good)
  • How good are you at calculating a 15% tip? (Not at all good – Extremely good)
  • How good are you at figuring out how much a shirt will cost if it is 25% off? (Not at all good – Extremely good)
  • When reading the newspaper, how helpful do you find tables and graphs that are parts of a story? (Not at all helpful – Extremely helpful)
  • When people tell you the chance of something happening, do you prefer that they use words ("it rarely happens") or numbers ("there's a 1% chance")? (Always prefer words – Always prefer numbers)
  • When you hear a weather forecast, do you prefer predictions using percentages (e.g., “there will be a 20% chance of rain today”) or predictions using only words (e.g., “there is a small chance of rain today”)? (Always prefer percentages – Always prefer words)
  • How often do you find numerical information to be useful? (Never – Very often)

Scoring Instructions

All questions use 6-point Likert-type scales with endpoints as marked. Response values increase left to right (1-6). Scoring is based on these values, except Question 7 is reverse coded (6-1) for consistency.

  • SNS: Average rating across all 8 questions (w/ Q7 reverse coded)
  • SNS ability subscale: Average rating on Questions 1-4
  • SNS preference subscale: Average rating on Questions 5-8 (w/ Q7 reverse coded)

To cite the scale, please use the following reference:

Fagerlin, A., Zikmund-Fisher, B.J., Ubel, P.A., Jankovic, A., Derry, H.A., & Smith, D.M.  Measuring numeracy without a math test: Development of the Subjective Numeracy Scale (SNS). Medical Decision Making, 2007: 27: 672-680.

In any discussions about the validation of the scale, please use the following reference:

Zikmund-Fisher, B.J., Smith, D.M., Ubel, P.A., Fagerlin, A.  Validation of the subjective numeracy scale (SNS): Effects of low numeracy on comprehension of risk communications and utility elicitations. Medical Decision Making, 2007: 27: 663-671.

Supporting information for: 2016 CBSSM Research Colloquium and Bishop Lecture (William Dale, MD, PhD)

Katrina Hauschildt, MA, PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology: “Language and Communication as Professionalization Projects in Clinical Ethics Consultation”


Although sociologists have examined the field of bioethics broadly, less empiric research has explored the process of clinical ethics consultation (CEC) in practice. This paper seeks to describe how UMHS’ CEC service focuses on communication, language, and terminology in professionalizing their membership and broadening the scope of their services. The CEC service established a specific communication standard for its written recommendations that emphasizes specificity and clarity for patients and their families, other providers, and members of the ethics committee. By identifying and reinforcing the importance of language and word choice in their own recommendations, newer members of the CEC are “trained” in how to craft recommendations, develop a specific jargon, and establish communication standards that differ from those used in other aspects of medical practice and documentation. The CEC service is often involved in addressing a variety of communication issues that arise in patient care, and these problems are thusly considered within the professional scope of the CEC service. By establishing the CEC service as an appropriate resource for dealing with communication issues between patients and their care team, the CEC service expands the professional boundaries of their work beyond strictly ethical expertise. The implications of these processes for professionalization and communication may be applicable to CEC services more broadly.


Devan Stahl, PhD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Ethics, Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences, MSU: "Is there a right not to know?"


There is a widespread presumption within medicine that terminally ill patients have a “right not to know” their prognosis. Guidelines for giving bad news (SPIKES; ABCDE) all require that the patient be asked first. There may be a dark side to this practice, however: terminally ill patients’ ignorance or denial of their prognosis too often lasts to the very end, one important factor discouraging timely referral and use of palliative and hospice care. Because of a possible link between a right not to know one’s prognosis and the aggressive treatment that patients with advanced illness too often receive at the end of life, the claim that there is a right not to know needs much more serious examination than it has received.

The authors argue that patients with advanced illness do not have a right not to know their prognosis. Withholding prognostic information in deference to a right not to know impedes patients’ capacity to make informed autonomous decisions about their treatment, encourages denial, and increases the likelihood of poor end of life care.

Chithra Perumalswami, MD MSc, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Veterans Affairs Clinical Scholar: "Insurance Status of Elderly Americans and Location of Death"


Context:  The decision to forego curative treatments (which includes the Medicare Skilled Nursing Facility Medicare benefit) is not financially neutral for terminally ill patients who do not have concurrent insurance (Medicaid or private insurance) in that they are subsequently asked to pay for room and board of the nursing home if they choose the Medicare hospice benefit.  The association between insurance status and location of death is currently unknown.  
Purpose: To determine whether the concurrent insurance status with Medicare (Medicaid vs. private insurance) of decedents is associated with location of death in a nationally representative survey of elderly Americans.
Methods: Longitudinal analysis of 7,979 decedents aged 50 years or older in the Health and Retirement Study from 2000-2010 (6 biennial waves). We examined associations between insurance status and location of death (home, hospital, nursing home, hospice) using multinomial logistic regression models and adjusting for demographic, socioeconomic, and clinical variables.
Results:  Decedents with dual eligible insurance before or at the time of death were significantly more likely to die in a nursing home than to die in a hospital (relative risk ratio (RRR) 2.6; 95% CI, 1.9-3.6, p<0.001). 
Those dying in a nursing home tended to be unpartnered (widowed, separated or divorced, never married), cognitively impaired or with dementia. Elderly Americans less likely to die in a nursing home were blacks and Hispanics, individuals with cancer, and those with the highest wealth.
Conclusions:  Dual eligible patients are substantially more likely to die in a nursing home than a hospital, and therefore may miss out on valuable services at the end of life, including hospice care. This study may have several implications for current proposed Medicare policy changes to allow patients access to both curative care and hospice care at the same time. 

Lauren B. Smith, MD, Associate Professor, Department of Pathology/Ginny Sheffield, UM Medical Student (M3): "Special treatment for the VIP patient:  Is it ethical?  Is it dangerous?"


The care of VIP patients is often prioritized at medical centers and this prioritization may lead to disparate access to care and patient safety issues. VIP patients may be donors, celebrities, or other physicians. Allowing VIP patients access to earlier care or “special treatment” not only raises social justice issues, but also has been shown to lead to medical error and suboptimal treatment. Ethical considerations will be discussed and recommendations will be presented.

Naomi Laventhal, MD, MA, Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases: "Roman Charity Redux: The Moral Obligations of the Breastfeeding Physician"


Female physicians must often reconcile the seemingly contradictory goals of valuing the health and well-being of their patients above all else, and actively mothering young children. One of the fundamental ethical precepts in medicine is for the physician to put the best interests of her patient ahead of her own.  For example the Fellowship Pledge of the American College of Surgeons states, “I pledge . . . to place the welfare and the rights of my patient above all else.” The challenge of weighing the needs of one’s own children against those of a patient is painfully acute for the breastfeeding physician. Is it ethically permissible to leave a busy clinic - or a patient in the under anesthesia in the operating room - in order to express breastmilk? Pragmatic strategies, such as mandates for appropriate space and time to pump, offer modest gains. However, we will suggest the need to re-envision the concept of “patient-first”, which is a vestige of the patriarchal hegemony that gave rise to our modern medical ethos, whereby nursing mothers are highly disadvantaged and virtually unable to reach the highest moral ideals of the profession.  Is the “right” to breastfeed absolute, or if should it be superseded by the needs of the patient? We will explore whether this issue is deeply personal, to be reconciled by affected individuals, or warrants an “outside-in” approach in which  physicians and bioethicists collectively and more philosophically consider whether and how to support women who choose to work and breastfeed.

Archana Bharadwaj, Graduate Student, UM School of Public Health: "Patient understanding and satisfaction regarding the clinical use of whole genome sequencing: Findings from the MedSeq Project"


Background: The expanded use of Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) has generated excitement due its potential to tailor medical treatment. However, clinical use of WGS poses challenges for informed consent and disclosure of results. Few empirical studies have examined patients’ understanding of and satisfaction with the clinical communication of WGS results.
Methods: The MedSeq Project is a randomized clinical trial examining the impacts of WGS in primary care and cardiology. We analyzed survey data from patients’ initial enrollment and at multiple time points following physician disclosure of results. Domains of interest included understanding of informed consent, subjective understanding, satisfaction with communication of results, and decisional regret.
Results: Survey responses were provided by 202 participants (mean age = 55 years; 51% male; 80% college graduates). At enrollment, participants understood the majority of key facts about the study (mean = 19.6 / 22 items answered correctly), although some incorrectly answered items addressing results to be returned (e.g., 18% believed they would receive their entire DNA sequence. Higher informed consent knowledge scores were associated with female gender and higher genomic knowledge, subjective numeracy, and education levels (all p < .05). After results disclosure, participants had low scores of decisional regret regarding study participation; they also reported high levels of satisfaction with their physicians’ disclosure of results (mean = 5.9 on a 6-point scale), although ~20% of participants reported receiving “too much” information. Satisfaction with communication did not vary by participants’ demographics or other characteristics (e.g. genomic knowledge).
Conclusions: This study suggests that the intervention was well understood by patients, with low levels of decisional regret and high satisfaction with communication. Future research will need to examine these issues in more diverse samples, where misconceptions about the clinical WGS and concerns about information overload may be magnified.

Kayte Spector-Bagdady, JD, MBioethics, CBSSM Postdoctoral Research Fellow: "Direct‐to‐Consumer Biobanking"


23andMe is back on the market as the first direct‐to‐consumer genetic testing company that “includes reports that meet Food and Drug Administration standards for being clinically and scientifically valid.” Its current product includes 36 health‐related carrier‐status reports and consumers’ raw genetic data. But while its front‐end product is selling individual genetic tests online, its back‐end business model is amassing one of the largest privately owned genetic databases in the world.
This article argues that as the Department of Health and Human Services revises its regulation of research with human subjects as well as its proposal to exempt autosomal recessive carrier screens from premarket authorization it should contemplate the intersection of these areas of rulemaking—and consider how enhancing the security of federally funded research but loosening private access to biospecimens will drive more research into the private sector and result in less, not more, protection for human subjects.

Panel Presentation (Susan Goold, MD, MHSA, MA & colleagues): "Community engagement in setting research priorities: Representation, Participation and Evaluation"


We describe a 5-year project that engaged minority and underserved communities throughout the state of Michigan in deliberations about health research priorities to increase community voice in how limited health research resources are allocated. DECIDERS (Deliberative Engagement of Communities in DEcisions about Research Spending) formed a state-wide Steering Committee (SC) to develop a version of the deliberative exercise CHAT for health research priorities, then convened 47 groups to evaluate the tool and describe community research priorities.
Facilitators: Susan Goold and Zachary Rowe, Co-Directors
Panelists: Karen Calhoun, Charo Ledon, Esther Onaga, Lisa Szymecko

Is Bill Gates' time worth more than yours? (Jul-03)

Informal caregiving for relatives (parents, grandparents, spouses) can be time consuming. Can we attach dollar value to that time? Is everyone's time worth the same amount?

Imagine that your mother is suffering from moderate dementia and needs assistance with daily activities such as bathing and dressing. You are the only person available to care for her, as you are an only child and your father has passed away. On average, your mother will need about 2 to 3 hours of help per day, or 17 hours per week total.

Assuming that you provide 17 hours of care per week, that means you will provide about 900 hours of care each year. How much money would you say the time you devote to caregiving is worth each year?
 
Now imagine that Bill Gates, the world's richest person, is in the same situation as you. He has to provide 17 hours of care per week to his mother. How do you think the value of the time he spends giving care compares to the value of the time you spend giving care?
 
  • His is worth more
  • His is worth the same amount
  • His is worth less

How do your answers compare?

According to a study done to determine the costs of informal caregiving, the average value of the time spent giving care to someone with moderate dementia was about $7400. This was calculated using an average time of about 900 hours per year, at the mean wage for a home health aide in 1998 of $8.20 per hour.

What if the person you're caring for has less or more severe dementia?

As you might imagine, the cost of informal care differs depending on the severity of dementia. People with mild dementia don't need as much care (8.5 hours per week), and those with severe dementia need much more (41.5 hours per week). The amount of care needed directly impacts the estimated cost of care:

Dementia severity Hours of care per week Estimated cost of informal care
Mild 8.5 $3630
Moderate 17.4 $7420
Severe 41.5 $17,700
Why is this important?

As the Baby Boomer generation ages, the number of people needing informal care is going to increase dramatically. In order to make informed policy decisions regarding care for older people, the government will need an estimate of the value of informal care. A major obstacle to this is that there is no set way for making the estimates.

Earlier, you said that Bill Gate's caregiving time would be worth the same amount as yours. That implies that basing national estimates of caregiving costs on average wages would be the proper way to go about the calculations, since it means everyone's time is equally valuable.

However, some people think that not everyone's time is of equal value. In that case, using average wages to estimate the total cost of caregiving may not lead to an accurate representation. If one group of people is more likely to provide care than another group, then the average value of all caregivers' time may not be the same as the average of all peoples' time. This would possibly lead to an over- or underestimation of caregiving costs, depending on the value of the time of common groups of caregivers. Even without an agreed-upon estimation method, some valuable data can be generated.

The estimation method used in this study likely led to conservative figures, so the true costs of informal caregiving are probably higher than reported here. Even using this conservative method, the costs to society are staggering. The researchers estimated that the cost of informal caregiving for dementia alone in 1998 was $18.6 billion, which is almost two-thirds as much money as that actually spent on paid home care services for all conditions, not just dementia! That figure will grow considerably in the not-so-distant future when the Baby Boomers begin to need caregiving, whether formal or informal, and will likely have a large impact not just on health care systems, but on society as a whole as more and more people are called on to provide informal care.

For more information see:

Langa KM, et al. National estimates of the quantity and cost of informal caregiving for the elderly with dementia. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 16:770-778, 2001.

Medical Students

Systematizing the Teaching of Medical Ethics in the Undergraduate Medical Years

Medical students at the University of Michigan encounter ethical issues throughout their four years of training.  Some are obvious – decisions at the end of life, the allocation of scarce of medical resources, challenges to patient autonomy – others are less obvious – relationships between medical residents and medical students, problems with the “hidden curriculum,” and systemic discrimination in the provision of care.  Our goal is to make students aware of the variety of ethical problems in medical care and to equip them to respond to these problems in a wise and responsible manner.

To that end, our curriculum efforts focus on extending the existing curriculum and on making the medical ethics curriculum for undergraduate medical students at UM more systematic and explicit. Because we want students to become well-versed in thinking through ethical dilemmas before they encounter them in their clinical work we weave ethics into the curriculum throughout the 4 years of their undergraduate training. We use the expertise of our CBSSM faculty to create novel curricular components that incorporate our empirical work in bioethics with our particular expertise in decision science.

Increasing Opportunities for Ethics Teaching in the Clerkship Years

Discussions During Required Clinical Rotations

We facilitate regular ethics discussions for medical students at the end of their required clinical rotations in Obstetrics and Gynecology (in the third year) and Emergency Medicine (in the fourth year). To facilitate these discussions, students prepare short essays on ethical dilemmas encountered in these clerkships.  Students are given a summary of all the issues that came up that rotation, which is used as a starting point for a discussion facilitated by a clinical faculty member trained in ethics. In addition, the Internal Medicine subinternship (an option for fourth year students) includes an ethics discussion at the end of the rotation.

These discussions allow medical students to bring up concerns with ethical dilemmas in a safe environment, teach the students about approaches to ethics, and embed training in ethical decision-making in clinical practice. This is often the first time students learn about the role of the hospital ethics committee and how they can contact them if desired.

     “That was unexpectedly awesome!"  

-- Medical student after Ob/Gyn ethics discussion

 

Advanced Medical Therapeutics Ethics Module

All fourth year medical students are required to take an online Advanced Medical Therapeutics course. As part of the course, we created an ethics module that includes multiple cases that present ethical dilemmas.  Each case includes pre-recorded videos of faculty discussing the ethical aspects of the case and interactive components requiring students to choose possible solutions to the problem, after which they receive explanations of the pros and cons of their choice.

Medical Ethics Path of Excellence

CBSSM faculty work closely with the medical school to strengthen the medical ethics curriculum for Michigan medical students.  Our goal is to make students aware of the broad range of  ethical challenges facing 21st century medicine – challenges in clinical care, medical research and the design of health care delivery. Most recently, a team of CBSSM faculty developed the Medical Ethics Pathway of Excellence, an opportunity for students to receive mentored training in ethics throughout their four years of medical school.

Overview of Medical Ethics Pathway to Excellence:

  • Introduced in September 2013, the first 10 students were accepted in 2014. Twelve students joined in 2015.
  • Students apply to the Ethics Path of Excellence at the end of February during their M1 year, and continue their studies through their M4 year. Students in the POE learn to:
    • Identify ethical issues in the organization and delivery of health care
    • Implement tools and strategies to address ethical issues
    • Continue their professional education and development of the skills required for leadership
  • Highlights:
    • Before applying to the Ethics Path of Excellence, students have the opportunity to attend fourteen interactive lunchtime lectures that review various aspects of ethics in a healthcare setting. Applicants must attend a minimum of five of these lectures.
    • Students who want to serve on ethics committees and/or include ethics as part of an academic career are provided with specialized training.
    • All students participate in an individualized, independent study, culminating in a capstone project in the M4 year. Often this work includes field work at CBSSM.

Beginning in 2015, the Path of Excellence has been responsible for administering the core ethics curriculum for all of the M1 students. The Ethics Path of Excellence will continue to be a co-curricular activity until 2017 when all students will be required to choose one of the paths offered in the medical school.

“We really want to educate people to be the ethics committee consultants of the future. I think it's pretty unique to have the option of pursuing this extracurricular program because essentially it teaches you leadership skills and how to be a self-directed learner. These are skills you'll really need when you become faculty. Students can take their interest in ethics and pursue it further.”             
Lauren Smith, M.D., Associate Professor of Pathology

Lauren Smith is the Director of the Path of Excellence. Andrew Barnosky, Christian Vercler, Ed Goldman, Kathryn Moseley, Janice Firn, Sacha Montas, and Raymond De Vries are core faculty members.

Start Seeing Ethics Lunch Discussions

As part of the Medical Ethics Path of Excellence, we offer lunch time discussions of cutting-edge topics in ethics. The content of these discussions includes topics such as conscientious objection, mandatory vs. optional vaccinations, patient centered care and shared decision making.  We have also used these discussions to hold mock ethics committee meetings with discussion of a specific case. Facilitators provide a relaxed atmosphere in which students can feel comfortable asking questions and voicing opinions.

 

"It is exciting to see medical students engage with the ethical issues that arise in the clinic and the classroom.  With encouragement from us they are beginning to see that there is more to medical ethics than just the well-known issues at the beginning and end of life.  While these ethical issues are important, there are also moral consequences associated with the mundane aspects of being a student and working with patients." Raymond De Vries, PhD, Director, Ethics Education Initiative

 

Supporting information for: 2014 CBSSM Research Colloquium and Bishop Lecture (Myra Christopher)

 

Andrew G. Shuman, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Otolaryngology, University of Michigan

"When Not to Operate: The Dilemma of Surgical Unresectability"

One of the most anguishing choices a surgeon can make is deciding not to embark upon an operation because a tumor is deemed unresectable.  Despite the widespread acceptance of patient autonomy and transparency in medical practice, there remains an unstated paternalism “behind the mask,” within the confines of the operating room.  The concept of surgical unresectability derives from a complex combination of tumor factors, patient factors, and surgeon factors.  In many cases, these decisions are intensely personal and subjective, with disagreements even among surgeons in the same field.  There is a risk that the voice of the patient may be lost in making these decisions, as surgeons weigh these intangible variables in ways that may be incommunicable.  However, the consequences of proceeding with an operation unlikely to achieve its intended outcome may be similarly terrifying.  In this presentation, a cancer surgeon and reconstructive surgeon will discuss these dilemmas from multiple perspectives using real-life case examples from their practice.  We will collectively try to tease out the inherent biases informing such decisions from the standpoint of doctors, patients, and clinical ethicists.  The theoretical underpinnings of the authority of surgical judgment will be explored, noting that pursuing goods internal to the practice of surgery requires such decisions, and asking whether Polanyi’s concept of tacit knowledge explains (or even permits) a degree of paternalism.  

Phoebe Danziger, BA, MD expected May 2014
 
"Beliefs, Biases, and Ethical Dilemmas in the Perinatal Counseling and Treatment of Severe Kidney Anomalies"
 

Anomalies of the kidney and urinary tract are the most common prenatally diagnosed fetal structural abnormalities, and are a major cause of end-stage kidney disease in children. Severe, prenatally diagnosed cases present a number of unique ethical issues with respect to the care of the pregnant woman, fetus, and neonate. We will use a case-based approach to explore these issues in the context of prenatal counseling, and in the neonatal period. On a case-by-case basis, efforts are made antenatally to coordinate counseling from appropriate consultants such as maternal-fetal medicine, neonatology, and pediatric urology and nephrology. We argue, however, that significant differences exist both between individual physicians and between subspecialties more broadly with regard to beliefs about prognosis, therapeutic interventions available, and appropriate utilization of palliative versus life-prolonging options. Unlike for other high-risk perinatal conditions such as extreme prematurity, no guidelines or standardized interprofessional processes exist for the provision of coordinated, timely, and non-directive care to these patients. This has implications for choices made regarding prenatal care, resuscitation efforts at birth, and utilization of palliative and life-prolonging care options, and we argue that the implicit biases and differences in both counseling and practice must be explicitly addressed and considered in order to facilitate more effective counseling for families facing these diagnoses. We will discuss the prenatal use of the term “lethal pulmonary hypoplasia,” a term that implies an unequivocal outcome but is a tissue-based diagnosis that can only be made after birth, not on the basis of obstetric ultrasound. We will also discuss the strikingly different rates of utilization of and attitudes towards dialysis initiated in the neonatal period, both between individual care providers and between institutions. 

 
Kathryn L. Moseley, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases, University of Michigan
 
"Electronic Medical Records: Challenges for Clinical Ethics Consultation"
 
Electronic medical records (EMRs) are rapidly replacing their paper counterparts. Their advantages include readability, access, organization, and comprehensiveness. The qualities that make EMRs so attractive also create new challenges for the clinical ethics consultant and the consultation process. This transition from a handwritten record of examinations and diagnoses that resided in close proximity to the patient to an electronic record that can be read remotely creates a number of concerns uniquely problematic for ethics consultation.  
We identify 4 hazards that EMRs present to ethics consultants:
Accessing significant medical information remotely, before face-to-face contact, can bias the consultant and lead to the premature development of conclusions/recommendations.
The ability to access medical information remotely can tempt the consultant to be less thorough in face-to-face information-gathering.
The paucity of nuanced information about the patient/family social and emotional situation and the content of patient/family meetings can misinform and mislead the consultant.
Remotely accessing information can delay communication with the patient and family, potentially undermining their trust in the objectivity of the ethics consultation process.
We propose the following 3 recommendations for training programs and ethics committee members to begin to address the concerns above:
1) Training programs for ethics consultants should emphasize the importance of face-to-face encounters with all stakeholders as soon as possible after receiving a consult.  Telephone only consults should be discouraged.
2) Hospital ethics committees should create procedures and processes that encourage and support face-to-face information gathering.
3) New consultants should be educated about the limitations of the EMR, especially as an accurate source of information about the emotional or social situation of the patient/family and the content of patient/family meetings.
 
 
Helen Morgan, MD,  Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Michigan
 
"Academic Integrity in the Pre-Health Undergraduate Experience"
 
Introduction: There is evidence that academic misconduct early in a student’s career can initiate a continuum of later unethical behaviors.  Multiple studies have reported that the best predictor of whether a student will cheat in medical school is whether they had a history of cheating in college.   Cheating in medical school has been found to be the strongest predictor of disciplinary action by state medical boards for practicing physicians. There is a paucity of data on perceptions of academic integrity in pre-health students. Methods: In the fall of 2013, we administered a survey on academic integrity to first-year pre-health students in the Health Science Scholars Program.  The curriculum for their course included sessions on academic integrity in the health care profession, and in the pre-health experience.  Follow-up assessments in the spring of 2014 included a re-administration of the same integrity survey, as well as a survey on students’ perceptions of what pressures and justifications lead to cheating behaviors. Results:  In the fall, students reported that 7.5% had cheated already in college, 26.2% had witnessed cheating in college, and 59.4% believed that academic misconduct was a problem at the University of Michigan.  In the spring, the percent of students who reported cheating in college was unchanged at 7.1%, and there was an increase in the number of students who reported witnessing cheating in college at 40.8% (p=0.027).    Students cited admissions requirements for graduate programs as the highest sources of pressure to cheat. Conclusion: This pilot data demonstrates that there is a need for curriculum development that could potentially prevent academic misconduct in vulnerable pre-health students.
 
 
Tanner Caverly, MD, MPH, Health Services Research Fellow, Ann Arbor VA Medical Center and Clinical Lecturer, University of Michigan
 
"How transparent are cancer screening & prevention guidelines about the benefits and harms of what they recommend?"
 
Transparent risk information -- that is, presenting absolute risks on both benefits and harms -- is essential for medical decision making. Without this information clinicians and policy-makers cannot know how much an intervention helps, whether the potential benefit is worth the potential harms, or whether one service is more helpful than another service. We recently did a structured review of clinical practice guidelines and two widely-used clinical resources. We found that few recommendations are accompanied by transparent risk information on the benefits and harms of the recommended cancer prevention service (only 23%). This talk focuses on how risk information WAS presented and the implications of our findings.
 
 
Susan D. Goold, MD, MHSA, MA , Professor of Internal Medicine and Health Management and Policy, School of Public Health, University of Michigan
 
"Controlling Health Costs:  Physician Responses to Patient Expectations for Medical Care"
 
Background: Physicians have dual responsibilities to make medical decisions that serve their patients’ best interests but also utilize health care resources wisely.  Their ability to practice cost-consciously is particularly challenged when faced with patient expectations or requests for medical services that may be unnecessary. Objective:  To understand how physicians consider health care resources and the strategies they use to exercise cost-consciousness to respond to patient expectations and requests for medical care. Design:  Exploratory focus groups of practicing physicians were conducted.  Participants were encouraged to discuss their perceptions of resource constraints, experiences with redundant, unnecessary and marginally beneficial services, and asked about patient requests or expectations for particular services. Participants:  Sixty-two physicians representing a variety of specialties and practice types participated in 9 focus groups in Michigan, Ohio, and Minnesota in 2012. Measurements:  Iterative thematic content analysis of focus group transcripts. Principal Findings:  Physicians reported making tradeoffs between a variety of financial and nonfinancial resources, considering not only the relative cost of medical decisions and alternative services, but the time and convenience of patients, their own time constraints, as well as the logistics of maintaining a successful practice.  They described strategies and techniques to educate patients, build trust, or substitute less costly alternatives when appropriate, often adapting their management to the individual patient and clinical environment. Conclusions:  Physicians often make nuanced trade-offs in clinical practice aimed at efficient resource use within a complex flow of clinical work and patient expectations.  Understanding the challenges faced by physicians and the strategies they use to exercise cost-consciousness provides insight into policy measures that will address physician’s roles in health care resource use.
 
 
 
 

Supporting information for: 2012 CBSSM Research Colloquium

Making a baby in the 21st century: An updated user manual

Presenting author: Melissa Constantine, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, CBSSM

Genetic testing has had a major role in prenatal care for decades.  Aneuploidy screening tests use non-invasive measurements of maternal serum markers to indicate whether a fetus is at increased risk for Down syndrome (trisomy 21) and Edward syndrome (trisomy 18), chromosomal abnormalities for which there are no curative or interventional treatments.  Prenatal screening is often a starting point on a pathway of decision making regarding invasive testing – with associated non-negligible miscarriage risks – and the termination of pregnancy.  As such, decisions to accept or refuse prenatal screening are preference sensitive and patient informed consent or informed refusal is warranted.

In the last year, new methods of genetic analysis for fetal diagnosis for multiple conditions have been introduced for clinical use, and the array of detectable fetal conditions is expanding.  Clinically, the new methods substantially improve on current diagnostic protocols; they are non-invasive, safe, easy to use, have sensitivity and specificity approaching 100% and can be administered as early as 7-10 weeks gestation.  Yet the uptake of a prenatal diagnostic testing for genetic conditions will continue to be a value-laden, preference sensitive choice and the need for informed consent will remain.

Ostensibly, the purpose of offering testing and the subsequent decision is to increase a woman’s control in her reproductive choices.  Some characteristics of the new testing technologies, such as earlier, confirmatory diagnosis, may enhance this control, although research on the process and experience of decision making for prenatal testing has consistently identified several aspects of current testing protocols that actually diminish control and obfuscate the perception of choice.  This presentation will explore how the clinical integration of the new genetic tests may mitigate, or exacerbate, women’s control in decision making and choice for prenatal diagnosis.

Dr. Melissa Constantine earned her Ph.D. in Health Service Research from the University of Minnesota and is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan.  Dr. Constantine’s work in measurement and psychometrics includes development and validation of health-related scales such as the Pelvic Organ Prolapse and Incontinence Sexual Questionnaire (PISQ-IR).  Her research interests focus on the ethical and social implications of the clinical integration of prenatal genetic tests.

 

Using community-based participatory research and user-centered design approaches in developing an interactive diabetes decision aid

Presenting authors: Vida A. Henderson, PharmD, MPH, MFA, Center for Health Communications Research; and Deliana Ilarraza

Co-authors: Kathryn LC Barr, MPH; Lawrence An, MD; William Newhouse; Michele Heisler, MD, MPH

Background: Together, community-based participatory research (CBPR), user-centered design (UCD) and health information technology (HIT) offer promising approaches to improve health disparities.

Objectives: This presentation will describe the application of CBPR and UCD principles to the development of iDecide/Decido, an interactive, tailored, web-based decision aid delivered by community health workers (CHWs) to African-American and Latino participants with diabetes in Southwest and Eastside Detroit. The decision aid is offered in English or Spanish and is delivered on an iPad in participants’ homes.

Methods: The overlapping principles of CBPR and UCD used to develop iDecide/Decido include: a community or user-focused approach; equitable academic and community partnership in all study phases; an iterative development process that relies on input from all stakeholders; and a program experience that is specified, adapted, and implemented with the target community.

Results: Collaboration between community members, researchers, and developers are especially evident in the program’s: design concept, animations, pictographs, issue cards, goal setting, tailoring, and additional CHW tools.

Conclusions:  Applying the principles of CBPR and UCD can be successfully employed in developing health information tools that are easy to use and understand, interactive, and target health disparities.

Vida Henderson, PharmD, MPH, MFA, currently works with the behavioral science team at the Center for Health Communications Research where she writes and tests tailored content for multi-media health behavior interventions. She has worked as a clinical pharmacist providing health education and medication counseling to low-income communities; and she has served as a faculty member at Xavier University of Louisiana College of Pharmacy in New Orleans.  Vida has recently received a Master of Public Health degree in Health Behavior and Health Education from the University of Michigan. Her research interests include health communications, spirituality and health, and health disparities.

Deliana Ilarraza is a Community Health Worker for the Community Health and Social Services Center (CHASS)/REACH Detroit Partnership.  Deliana works with community organizations, schools and churches, establishing sites for physical activity classes and conducting diabetes awareness and prevention programs and studies.  She has worked with the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan, the Adolescent Diabetes Health Literacy Study, and the Journey to Health diabetes management and empowerment program, facilitating workshops, teaching curricula, and evaluation.

 

Resident attitudes toward ethical and medical decision-making for neonates born at the limit of viability

Presenting author: Naomi Laventhal, MD, MA, Clinical Lecturer, Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases, CBSSM faculty

Co-author: Stephanie Kukora, MD

Background: Existing guidelines call for consistent resuscitation practices for extremely preterm infants based on epidemiologic data, but appropriate frameworks for value-driven decision-making in this context are still debated. Neonatologists’ attitudes are well-studied, but those of resident physicians are poorly understood.

Objectives: To describe residents’ knowledge of our practices, attitudes toward gestational age (GA) based resuscitation thresholds, and ethically relevant considerations for decision-making at the margin of gestational viability.

Methods: We surveyed our pediatric residents anonymously, asking them to identify current practices and ideal GA thresholds for offering and insisting on resuscitation, and the importance of contributing factors in decision-making for extremely preterm infants. Results: Response rate 61% (n =36).  Many (62%) residents correctly identified 23 weeks as the lower threshold for resuscitation in our NICU (range 21 - 24), despite finding our practices inconsistent (84%) and unclear (89%). Fewer (21%) correctly identified 24 weeks as the latest GA that parents may refuse resuscitation (range 23 - 42, 32% 25 weeks, 21% 26 weeks, 16% >26 weeks). Most disagreed with our current practices, identifying a preferred older GA for the lower threshold: 48% at 24 weeks, and 18% at 25 weeks (range 23-27). Most thought the upper threshold for elective resuscitation was too low, with 24% and 28% indicating 25 and 26 weeks, respectively, and 33% ≥28 weeks (range 24-40).  Compared to current considerations, they reported scientific evidence to be undervalued (p<.0001), and attendings’ personal beliefs to be overvalued (p<.0001). Responses trended toward family social and financial situations being undervalued. 

Conclusions: Our residents recognize decision-making for extremely preterm infants that is supported by known epidemiology, but attribute it to physicians’ personal beliefs, rather than scientific evidence. This suggests educational deficits, and a need for further study in a larger sample.  Preferences for a higher GA threshold for initiating resuscitation and a wider GA range in which parents may refuse it may reflect disproportionate pessimism about preterm infants.

Dr. Naomi Laventhal joined U-M in 2009, after completing her residency in pediatrics, fellowships in neonatology and clinical medical ethics, and a master’s degree in public policy at the University of Chicago.  In the Brandon Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital she cares for critically ill newborns, provides prenatal consultation for parents expecting to deliver premature infants, and teaches neonatal-perinatal medicine and bioethics to residents and medical students.  Her research is in neonatal clinical ethics, and is currently focused on decision making for infants born at the margin of gestational viability.   Dr. Kukora is a resident in Pediatrics, having completed her MD at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School.

 

Distrust of pediatricians’ sleep advice: Focus group results from the Project for African American Infant Safety

Presenting author:  Kathryn L. Moseley, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases, CBSSM faculty

Co-author: Jennifer C. Sanchez, MPH

Background: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the number one cause of death for infants from birth to one year of age and can be reduced by placing the infant in the supine sleeping position. Although the number of SIDS-related deaths is decreasing, it still remains a significant issue, especially in the African American population where the supine sleep position is used less.  PrAAIS (Project for African American Infant Safety) is a randomized controlled trial promoting infant supine sleep among African American parents of newborns in Detroit, Michigan through the creation and distribution of tailored health educational materials.



Methods: We conducted six exploratory focus groups with a total of 29 African American parents of young infants to identify barriers and facilitators to infant supine sleep. 

Results: A prominent barrier that emerged during data analysis was distrust of physicians’ advice about supine sleep. This distrust stemmed from: a) skepticism of the validity of information provided by childless pediatricians, b) the paternalistic instructional style of pediatricians’ sleep advice (“you must do this”), and c), the frequent changes in sleep position recommendations that are not consistent with mothers’ lived experience, where the only rationale provided is that “studies show…”

Discussion: Parental distrust is not surprising, given these assessments.  Our results suggest that physicians may become more trustworthy sources of information about supine sleep if they: a) openly acknowledge parental confusion about the guidelines, b) provide concrete advice on methods to successfully achieve infant supine sleep in a more participatory manner, and c) place the danger of ignoring the guidelines in context through a discussion of both the relative and absolute risk to their infant of dying from SIDS or suffocation.

Dr. Kathryn Moseley is a clinical bioethicist as well as board-certified pediatrician and neonatologist.  For eleven years, Dr. Moseley was the Director of Bioethics for the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan, overseeing a busy ethics consultation service.  She joined U-M in 2002 with a joint appointment in the Program in Bioethics and the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit to conduct research on the racial differences in health care decision-making she discovered doing clinical ethics consultations and how those decisions are affected by culture and trust.  She recently received a grant from the NIH to conduct a 5-year trial of a culturally-tailored intervention to decrease the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in the African American community.  She co-chairs the Pediatric Ethics Committee and directs the ethics consultation service at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

 

What’s in a name? The effect of a disease label on parents’ decision to medicate a colicky infant

Presenting author: Laura D. Scherer, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, CBSSM and VA

Co-authors: Brian K. Zikmund-Fisher, PhD; Angela Fagerlin, PhD; Beth A. Tarini, MD

It is common for physicians to diagnose infants who have excessive regurgitation and associated crying with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).  From 1999-2004 there was a 7-fold increase in the use of prescription medications to treat GERD in infants <1 year old (Hassal, 2012).  However, clinical trials have shown that existing medications are no better than placebo in treating these symptoms (Orenstein et al., 2009) and the majority of infants grow out of this behavior without medical intervention.  Given this, it is unclear why medical treatment of GERD persists.  One possibility is that the way that physicians frame their assessment of the symptoms influences parents’ perceived need to medicate their child.  In the present study, we examined how a doctor’s explanation—in particular, the doctor’s use of the diagnostic label “GERD”—influences parents’ desire for medical interventions. To explore this question, we asked parents in the waiting room of a general pediatrics clinic to read a scenario (2x2 randomized design) in which they were asked to imagine they had an infant who cried and spit up excessively.  The scenario then described a pediatric appointment in which the infant either received a formal diagnosis of GERD, or not.  In addition, half of parents were explicitly told that existing medications are ineffective at treating the symptoms, or not.  Results showed that the presence of a GERD diagnosis made parents more interested in medicating their infant, even when they were explicitly told that the medications do not work.  Moreover, the GERD diagnosis made parents less likely to think that their infant would get better without medication, relative to parents who received no diagnosis.  In conclusion, physician labeling of normal infants as “diseased” may increase parents’ willingness to medicate their child.

Dr. Laura Scherer is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the VA Center for Clinical Management Research and the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan.  She received her PhD in Social Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis, and will soon be an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Health Sciences at the University of Missouri in Columbia.  Her interests include the impact of emotions and intuition on medical decision making, and the psychological phenomena that lead to medicalization and overtreatment.

 

Cracking the code: Ethical issues involved in the decision to undergo genetic testing

Presenting author: Lauren B. Smith, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology, CBSSM faculty

Advances in molecular diagnostics have led to the capability of sequencing an individual’s germline DNA or exome for as little as $1000. An ethical analysis and discussion of genetic testing, both historically and as it relates to this new technology, will be presented.  The discussion will include factors related to the decision to undergo testing, possible benefits and harms, and issues surrounding research protocols and commercial testing services.  The discussion will include an overview of testing for Huntington disease, breast-ovarian cancer syndromes, and Alzheimer’s disease as illustrative examples.

Dr. Lauren Smith is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of Michigan, specializing in hematopathology.  She has been a member of the University of Michigan Adult Ethics Committee since 2005 and also serves as a member of the Michigan State Medical Society Ethics Committee.  Her research interests include ethical issues in clinical medicine and pathology.

 

The myth of individual risk    

Presenting author: Ralph Stern, MD, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Internal Medicine

Co-author: Zachary Goldberger, MD

Medical decision-making often relies upon clinical prediction models to estimate individual risk.  Morbidity and mortality predictions (e.g.  Framingham for ischemic heart disease in healthy patients or APACHE for mortality in critically ill patients) are often used for treatment decisions (e.g. statins, aspirin, hypoglycemic therapy).  As such, their prognostic value carries particular importance for shared decision-making with patients and their families.  However, it remains underappreciated that clinical prediction methods were developed to analyze disease in populations, not individuals.  The notion that such models can give individual patients a unique probability of a health outcome is highly debatable.  When the goal is allocating treatments to high risk subgroups to reduce costs, these models may be useful.  But when the goal is allocating treatments to high risk individuals, none of the models should be the sole basis for clinical decisions.

 Because risk cannot be measured in an individual, there is no way to experimentally verify any of the individual predictions provided by a model.  This can only be achieved by assembling a group of patients similar to the individual in question.  That each of these groups may have a different risk means there is no such thing as individual risk, an issue identified by John Venn in 1866 and known as the reference class problem.  Different models may yield substantially different individual risk estimates.  This is an inherent limitation, which is not eliminated by inclusion of more risk factors in the model or other proposed solutions.

While these models are widely used, it remains unclear how best to apply them.  Clinicians who use these models to make patient care decisions need to be aware of their limitations. 

Dr. Ralph Stern is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the divisions of Cardiovascular Medicine and Molecular Medicine and Genetics.  His clinical interests are hypertension and medical and cancer genetics.  His research interests include risk stratification and the clinical utility of new risk factors.

Dr. Zachary Goldberger is a 4th year cardiology fellow and Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar.  His research interests center on antiarrhythmic therapy.  Specifically, he is interested in understanding the attitudes and experiences of patients receiving implantable cardioverter-defibrilators (ICDs), and creating a decision aid to enhance shared decision-making for patients receiving ICDs for primary prevention of sudden cardiac death.  He is also studying utilization of antiarrhythmic therapy and drug toxicity, as well as patterns of care in resuscitation during in-hospital cardiac arrest.  His teaching interests center on improving ECG literacy and cardiac physical examination skills in trainees.

 

The swinging gate: Genetic testing and ethical issues

Presenting author: Wendy R. Uhlmann, MS, CGC, Clinical Assistant Professor, Departments of Internal Medicine and Human Genetics

Advances in genetic testing have resulted in an exponential increase in the number of genetic tests that are available.  Given the rapid pace of genetic test introduction, few tests have practice guidelines.  As a result, healthcare professionals who order these tests and the genetic testing laboratories have gate-keeper roles with genetic testing.  Genetic tests, unlike most medical tests, present some unique considerations given the potential familial implications in addition to the fact that genetic testing is a moving target.  Communication of genetic information and genetic test results along with medical record documentation of this information raises several ethical and policy issues, including: Who needs to know?  What information should be communicated?  Who is obligated to inform whom?  What factors need to be considered in the communication of genetic information?  Cases from the University of Michigan Medical Genetics Clinic will be used to illustrate ethical issues that clinicians encounter with patients pre-testing and post-testing, including: competing obligations, testing children, carrier testing for rare autosomal recessive genetic conditions, predictive genetic testing and broader insurance issues.  Weighing risks and benefits and resolving ethical issues with genetic testing decisions and communication of test results involves consideration of the core ethical principles in addition to assessment of both professional and patient obligations.  Careful consideration is needed in weighing competing obligations.  Understanding ethical issues currently experience din genetics clinics will help guide the handling of similar and novel future challenges that will arise with advances in genetic testing and genomic medicine.

Wendy R. Uhlmann, MS, CGC, is the genetic counselor/clinic coordinator of the Medical Genetics Clinic at the University of Michigan.  She is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Departments of Internal Medicine and Human Genetics and an executive faculty member of the genetic counseling training program.  Wendy Uhlmann is a past president of the National Society of Genetic Counselors and currently serves on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC), Medical Genetics Working Group.

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