Medical Ethicist Receives Cura Personalis Medal at Convocation

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Edmund D. Pellegrino, MD
Edmund D. Pellegrino, MD

(September 24, 2009) — The Medical Center honored Edmund D. Pellegrino, MD, with a medal for his outstanding scientific, medical and educational achievements in the spirit of the Jesuit tradition of cura personalis, or caring for the whole person, during its Sept. 22 convocation.

Pellegrino, the John Carroll Professor Emeritus of Medicine and a senior research scholar at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, has held many roles while at Georgetown. He has served as the director of the Center for Clinical Bioethics, head of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics and director for the Advanced Study of Ethics.

“In gratitude for his service to the medical community, for his commitment to excellence in scholarship and research … for his leadership in bioethics …, we’re honored to have (Dr. Pellegrino) with us today,” said Georgetown President John J. DeGioia at the Medical Center’s second annual convocation.

DeGioia and Howard J. Federoff, MD, executive vice president for health sciences at Georgetown and executive dean of the School of Medicine, presented the medical scholar with the Cura Personalis Medal during the afternoon convocation.

A prolific author, Pellegrino, 89, has written more than 24 books and 550 published works in medical science, philosophy and ethics, and he is the founding editor of the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy.

“Despite being labeled a bioethicist, I really am not one,” said Pellegrino. “I am a physician who likes to reflect on the moral obligations of being a physician, and I continue to identify myself that way.”

Best known for his discussions on Christian virtue and medical ethics in the treatment of patients, humanism and the physician; and the philosophical basis of medical treatment, Pellegrino focused his remarks on the role of ethics in the health care debate and in particular on the role of physicians.

“It involves all of us as patients, as potential patients. It also involves all of us here in the Medical Center who are teachers,” Pellegrino said. “Basic scientists contribute to the formation of the physician as do we clinicians. The idea that we are celebrating today, the idea of cura personalis, is the idea of the care of the person.”

At 89, Pellegrino returns to Georgetown after completing a four-year term as chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics.

Before about 20 Medical Center faculty members and some students received recognition for their achievements, Federoff moderated a morning colloquium exploring the expanding field of pharmacogenetics. The panel featured Pellegrino along with Kevin FitzGerald, SJ, research associate professor of oncology in the division of biochemistry and pharmacology; Mark Smith, MD, department chair in emergency medicine; Elliott Crooke, MD, chairman of the department of biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology; and John Deeken, MD, assistant professor at Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

By Rachel Pugh, GUMC Communications