Bioethics Internship Let Sam White ’18 Ask Hard Questions, Discovers a Career

By ANNA SQUIRES

When doctors swear to uphold the Hippocratic Oath when treating patients, they make that famous promise: to do no harm.

But how can a doctor truly do no harm? Take, for instance, the thorny issue of physician-assisted suicide. Does a doctor “do no harm” by helping a suffering patient to end his or her life? By the same token, by providing the means of death, doesn’t a doctor “harm” the patient’s loved ones by causing them grief?

These are the kinds of questions that Sam White, ’18, dealt with during his summer bioethics internship at Centura Health in Centennial, Colorado.

As the Legal-Ethical Shadow for the hospital, White spent his summer observing the resident bioethicist as she determined whether or not Centura Health made ethical choices in treating patients.

For White, a philosophy major, wrestling with such nebulous questions came naturally.

Members of the Career Center Team. Photo courtesy of Career Center

“[Bioethicists face] intense ethical situations where the right thing to do is unclear,” White said. “When I came to C.C., I originally wanted to study biology. But I realized I’m not a scientific thinker, so I switched into philosophy. That crossover of philosophical and biological interests has led to the direction I’m going… I definitely think the work suits me.”

White’s internship asked him to put abstract bioethics questions into practice. One day, he observed an emotional meeting where doctors explained to a patient’s family that they could not ethically resuscitate a patient in a vegetative state. Yet the family wanted the opposite.

Another day, White performed intake interviews for homeless individuals at Centura’s “safety net” health clinics, where the homeless and uninsured can seek free medical care. White navigated patients’ differing needs – from basic requests like lotion and socks, to delirious and hallucinating patients in need of far more intensive care.

The diverse experiences White faced this summer have shaped his future career path.

“I really feel like I’m arranging myself to have a career where I can make a meaningful impact,” he said.

“This internship helped me to decide my plans for the future. At first I thought I wanted to pursue a grad school degree in bioethics, but now I realize that I want to go to law school. Our healthcare system is broken…and I think a law degree would help me to make the changes I want to make in the system.”

When asked about the advice he would give to students who aren’t sure which industry they might like to go into after graduation, White answered, “Honestly, you’re never going to know if you’re going to enjoy the work you see yourself doing in a future career. My best advice is to just go for it and try it and see what you can get out of any experience you come across.”

He continued, “Ask loads of questions, volunteer to do things you don’t understand how to do, talk to as many people as humanly possible. Squeeze every possibility dry!”

The Career Center at CC congratulates Sam on an internship well done.

Those seeking to explore industries they may be interested in, develop their professional identity, and make career connections are welcome to make an appointment. The Career Center is open for business Monday-Friday from 8:30am to 5:00 p.m.

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