Upcoming "The Conversation" Sessions

In Our Own Backyard: Access to Care in Houston’s Vulnerable Population - April 12, 2018

Ricardo Nuila, M.D.
What can Houston contribute to the national health care debate? The answer—many vital and missing pieces to the puzzle—is surprising when you consider our state’s terrible reputation in this regard. Much of the ill repute is earned from highly political decisions, like not expanding Medicaid, but what the country doesn’t know is that Houston’s safety net hospital system provides affordable and high-quality health care to vulnerable patients. This session will delve into how the Harris Health system blends conservative and liberal ideals in healthcare, and how in doing so, achieves a level of cost-saving that can serve as a model for the rest of the country.

Background Readings:
Poor and Uninsured in Texas
Taking Care of Our Own

The Burning Question: The Ethics of Medical Marijuana - May 10, 2018

Stacey Berg, M.D.
During this session we will explore the controversies surrounding the use of marijuana as a medicine. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, but the federal government still classifies it like heroin. Why is there such a debate? Should people be able to use pot for hard-to-treat symptoms? In this session we will smoke out the facts and discuss the pros and cons of doctor-prescribed marijuana.

Background Readings:
DrugFacts: Marijuana
Marijuana as Medicine
Should Marijuana Be a Medical Option?
Dr. Sanjay Gupta: It's Time for a Medical Marijuana Revolution
Many States Have Legalized Medical Marijuana, So Why Does DEA Still Say It Has No Therapeutic Use?

Previous "The Conversation" Sessions

Public Policy or Police State? The Appropriate Reach of Government in Health Interventions  - Feb. 8, 2018

Stephanie Morain, Ph.D., M.P.H.
During this session on public health, we’ll explore the role of the government in health promotion. What is the role of the government in encouraging healthy behaviors? Does the government have a different responsibility to respond to infectious diseases like Ebola, bird flu, or Zika than it does for chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, or cancer? Should the government only get involved when diseases present a “harm to others”? If so, should financial harms, like impact on insurance premiums or on Medicare count? We’ll grapple with these questions about the role of government in keeping us healthy—and what role the public should have in shaping government policy for public health.

Background Readings:
Father Mike
An Epidemic of Meddling: The Totalitarian Implications of Public Health
Zika Virus: Floridians Fear 'Pandora's Box' of Genetically Altered Mosquitos

Facing Ethics Head-On: Neuroethics and Our Growing Understanding of the Brain - Nov. 9, 2017

Gabriel Lazaro-Munoz, Ph.D., J.D., M.B.E.
Neurogenomic information could soon help identify who is at risk of mental health disorders even before symptoms are observed. It could also help prevent the development of disorders, diagnose disorders, select treatment options and improve clinical outcomes. In this session on neuroethics, we will examine the current status of psychiatric genomics, how it could profoundly transform the practice of psychiatry, and what are some of the scientific and ethical challenges these technologies may pose for psychiatrists, patients, and society.

Background Readings:
Hunting the Genetic Signs of Postpartum Depression With an iPhone App
My Mental Illness and My Research 
New Psychiatric DNA Testing Is Unproven Ground

In the Path of Harvey: Ethical Issues in Providing Clinical Care During a Natural Disaster - Sept. 14, 2017

Janet Malek, Ph.D.
Resolving ethical disagreements in the clinical setting is both an art and a science. In this session "When doctor and patient disagree: Navigating uncertainty in a medical context," we will discuss a well-established method for reasoning about moral questions in a systematic and rigorous way. The group will work through an actual case from the clinic surrounding Hurricane Harvey, asking: What are the consequences at stake and which are most important?  Are there rights that need to be taken into account? How might reflection on virtue or fairness shape our thinking? And what do we do when these various considerations come into conflict? Using this method, we will explore the science behind ethical justification and demonstrate that some resolutions really are better than others.

*This session features the Ethics Work-Up which will guide the case analysis and serve as the foundation for analyzing the ethical issues future sessions address.

Background Readings:
What Happens When a Hurricane Hits a Hospital
Can Moral Disputes Be Resolved?
Would You Pull the Trolley Switch? Does it Matter?


Join "The Conversation" and register online now for the Speaker Series!