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The Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine (CBSSM) was formed in 2010 through a merger of a pre-existing bioethics Program and a decision sciences Center at the University of Michigan Medical School. Since then, we have developed a shared vision that has unified faculty and staff who had previously functioned in separate silos (ethics service, ethics scholarship, and decision sciences) and implemented a variety of programs that benefit our members and the patients, trainees, researchers, and faculty of Michigan Medicine. CBSSM is led by interim Co-Directors Dr. Brian Zikmund-Fisher and Prof. Kayte Spector-Bagdady

CBSSM Mission

The mission of the Center for Bioethics & Social Science in Medicine (CBSSM) is to improve the practice of medicine by supporting a vibrant interdisciplinary community that provides clinical ethics, research ethics, and ethics education services and creates leading empirical bioethics, decision science, and health communications research.


CBSSM has five main goals in pursuit of its mission:

  1. The goal of the clinical ethics service is to serve as a national model for how to instill a culture of ethical and patient-centered care in a large academic medical center.
  2. The goal of the research ethics service is to improve the conduct of health research to fully respect participants, benefit diverse communities, and improve access to evidence-based care.
  3. The goal of the ethics education service is to provide classroom and bedside instruction in theoretical and applied clinical and research ethics to students, trainees, and interprofessional health care team members to train excellent health care professionals and researchers and positively impact patient care.
  4. The goal of CBSSM’s empirical bioethics, decision science, and health communications research is to apply cutting-edge legal and social science methods both to understand all types of medical decision-making processes at individual, clinical, and policy levels and to design and rigorously evaluate ways to improve them.
  5. The goal of CBSSM’s vibrant community is to offer opportunities for intellectual interactions, organizational knowledge, staff support, and institutional and external connections to facilitate achieving these goals.

CBSSM connects scholars and practitioners across departmental and disciplinary boundaries providing fertile ground for innovation collaborations related to topics such as patient-provider communication, decision aids, over- or under-utilization of services, public or patient preferences, and bioethical issues in medicine. Members of the Center include clinicians from a range of specialties, social and cognitive psychologists, behavioral economists, bioethicists, decision scientists, survey methodologists and public health experts.

CBSSM researchers, post-docs, and staff have training and expertise in a variety of areas, including bioethics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, public heath, psychiatry, and public policy. 

At CBSSM, we perform research aimed at increasing healthy behavior and improving health care decision making, as well as research examining bioethical issues in medicine. Considering these ethical and human components of medical decisions is the necessary and important final step in translating medical advances into health care practice, benefiting: 

  • patients and their families
  • clinicians
  • third-party payers
  • policymakers
  • the general public

CBSSM is home to the Clinical Ethics Service (CES) and the Research Ethics Service (RES). The CBSSM CES represents an expansion of services designed to promote a culture of ethical and patient-centered care by developing a comprehensive set of ethics-related activities. The CES liaises with and provides support to the adult and pediatric ethics committees; performs clinical ethics consultation; assists with ethics-related policy development on a regular and proactive basis; organizes and administers structured educational programs in clinical ethics; and coordinates empiric research relevant to clinical ethics. The CES staffs all ethics consultations arising from any of the clinical venues (inpatient and outpatient; adult and pediatric) 24/7/365. The RES focuses on four categories of support: 1) writing and updating ethical research institutional policy; 2) research ethics education and training for faculty and staff; 3) individual research ethics consultation; and 4) empirical research on methods for improving the research process. The RES also oversees the Research Ethics Committee (REC) which provides oversight and quality assurance for policy recommendations and research ethics consultations.