Medicine and Biomedical Research: Concepts and Values in Medicine


Dr. Gregory Cooper
Assistant Professor of Plastic Surgery


This program should be of great interest to undergraduate students with career plans in the health professions, such as medicine.  Some volunteer experiences in hospitals, clinics, or the equivalent is preferred.  In addition, two courses in the biological sciences or neuroscience, such as Biological Sciences 0150 or 0715 (Foundations of Biology 1), Biological Sciences 0160 or 0716 (Foundations of Biology 2), are pre-requisite to some of the courses in the program.


Ethical Issues in Genomic Research and Medicine
The mapping of the human genome and, more recently, increasingly economical genome sequencing technologies have been lauded for the potential to revolutionize medicine. However, some observers are skeptical of the pace and nature of the “revolution,” while some believe the revolution will come at a high ethical price. The Human Genome Project included the first federal funding for research on bioethical issues, and for the past two decades social scientists, bioethicists, and others in the humanities have mapped the ethical terrain of genetic research and genomic medicine. 

Drawing on the multidisciplinary literature addressing these ethical issues, this seminar will examine the challenges of conducting genetic/genomic research, using genomic information in clinical care, and the challenges of implementing personalized medicine, as well as the social, legal, and professional policies that are emerging to address these issues. Students will be expected to do substantial reading and to write short papers and one research paper. Class time will be devoted to discussion of readings and related current events. Additional outside activities, such as visits to nearby museum exhibitions, are also anticipated.
Lisa S. Parker, Ph.D.

Medicine and Society: A Critical Exploration of Concepts, Issues, and Epistemologies

We know that the practice of medicine extends beyond the treatment room. One might even venture to say that culture affects the way disease is thought of and brought forth into the world. Perhaps another phrase suggests itself: medical practice informs society and vice versa.

Disease, curing, and human health are not just the outcomes of ‘expert’ and historical/cultural systems, but also manifestations of particular notions of personhood, the body, and even the body politic. As a result, medicine, ‘health care’ and citizenry relate to one another in various degrees and abstractions. This course explores the nature of illness, diagnosis, and treatment not only in cross-cultural terms, but also as a set of critiques into the nature of institutions (e.g., the US health care system), social relations, ideologies, and epistemologies.  We will consider specific topics such as the nature and ontology of pain, bioethics, pollution and conflict epidemiology, and aging.

Students will gain a proficient understanding of the kinds of arguments medical anthropologists make, and of the need for ‘cultural competency’ and its limitations. Furthermore, students will begin to deconstruct for themselves the complex set of relations that structure various medical practices.  Lastly, students will be able to identify and articulate the important social factors that inform medicine. Students will be evaluated through an in-class midterm, essays, and a group project and presentation.

This course is geared toward students looking for that unique edge in pursing future work in the medical field as doctors, researchers, biomedical engineers, development aid workers, consultants, policy makers, social workers, hospital administrators, etc.
Philip Kao, Ph.D.

Clinical and Medical Research Experience
This course will offer students an unparalleled exposure to the diverse and complex fields of clinical practice and biomedical research that exist within the University of Pittsburgh community. We will explore specific clinical disorders and the associated patient care and research directions. Each week, a one-hour presentation by a clinical faculty member will detail a specific patient or group of patients that are of particular clinical interest to the presenter.  Prior to this presentation, a member of that faculty member's laboratory or clinical practice will give the students a two-hour presentation to provide essential background information pertinent to the clinical presentation. Finally, students will attend a one-hour discussion and submit a written report that summarizes the information provided each week in the course.
This course is designed to expose students to clinical realities and to the research that supports advancements in clinical practice. By the conclusion of the course, students will be able to synthesize and review the scientific and clinical literature for the purpose of identifying gaps in the research or clinical practice.
Gregory M. Cooper, Ph.D.

Critical Evaluation of the Scientific Literature: Tissue Engineering
This course meets twice weekly for 2-hour discussion sessions.  The goal of the discussion is to provide more in-depth appreciation of scientific research than is available in general lectures, by focusing on original scientific articles of relevance to recent controversies that arose in addressing questions of how to engineer therapies that induce the regeneration of damaged tissues.  Grades in the course will be based on weekly written homework assignments in which students prepare a summary of the main points of the research articles. Specifically, students are asked to indicate what the goals of the research were, what was done, what was found, what was concluded, and what additional questions remained that might lead to new experiments.
This course is designed to expose students to the primary scientific literature, rather than to texts or review articles, and to encourage students to develop skills in the critical evaluation of scientific information by assessing whether appropriate experiments were performed, whether sufficient data were collected and analyzed appropriately, whether the results obtained warrant the conclusions drawn, whether the new information has been appropriately integrated with previous results, and what additional information must be obtained in order to provide a comprehensive understanding of the issues. 
Gregory M. Cooper, Ph.D.                                                                                                   


This program will run in parallel with a summer research program in which undergraduate students, engaged in faculty-mentored biomedical research, will meet weekly to present to each other their research findings and ideas.  Those latter students will have access to the clinical presentations mentioned above, while students in the new program in Biomedical Theory and Practice will have access to the student research presentations.


During the past 25 years the University of Pittsburgh has become a major research institution in the United States.  During the same time period, and not incidentally, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has become very prominent and well-respected, both locally and nationally.  Among many consequences of these developments, the University of Pittsburgh now receives a great number of applications for admission into its undergraduate programs from students with research and clinical interests in the biomedical area.
A consortium of faculty from the medical school, Anthropology, and the renowned Center for Bioethics has put together a program to integrate knowledge, strategy, and perspective in a new program that focuses on Biomedical Theory and Practice.  The program is intended to be especially attractive to undergraduate students with career goals in the health sciences.

Note that the four courses that comprise the new program are not taught at Pitt outside this summer EDGE program; instead, they will be courses designed specifically for this program and administered by the University Honors College.