Bioethicist heads BGeXperience values program

BOWLING GREEN, O.—A Cleveland Clinic bioethicist has been named the new director of BGeXperience, a Bowling Green State University program that leads first-year students to reflect on their values and make thoughtful judgments about difficult ethical issues they will confront as students and later as citizens and professionals.

Dr. George Agich specializes in applied ethics. Before accepting his new post at BGSU, he was the F. J. O’Neill Chair in Clinical Bioethics at the Cleveland Clinic and a professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University.

Bowling Green is not entirely new to Agich, however. He has served since 1997 as director of a unique, clinical bioethics internship program for BGSU graduate students in applied philosophy, and has held the position of adjunct professor in that department.

He is also a professor of clinical medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine in Ohio State University’s School of Medicine.

At the Cleveland Clinic, Agich has handled “real-world” issues in dealing with medical students, residents, doctors and the families of patients, said Dr. Donald Nieman, the dean of the BGSU College of Arts and Sciences and interim director of the BGeXperience program since its inception.

Also the holder of a joint appointment with the Transplant Center of the Cleveland Center
Foundation, Agich has consulted and published extensively on such topics as end-of-life issues, patient autonomy, aging, research ethics and mental illness. The author of two books and editor of two more, he is an internationally known expert and has been a visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge and visiting professor at the University of Basel, Switzerland.

In addition to medical ethics, Agich has a strong background in business and management ethics, another dimension he brings to BGSU, Nieman added.

Before joining the Cleveland Clinic, Agich taught from 1976-97 at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, where he was founding director of the school’s Medical Ethics Program. He received his bachelor’s degree in philosophy and English from Duquesne University in 1969, and his master’s and doctoral degrees in philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin in 1971 and 1976, respectively.

Agich is exceptionally well qualified to lead BGeXperience to its next level, Nieman said. The program, which was begun in 2002, has grown steadily and this year, for the first time, includes all first-year students at the University.

Plans are under way to expand the program to include a sophomore course and a senior capstone course with a strong component of values and ethics. A service learning opportunity will be added for future spring semesters.

Part of Agich’s job will be to provide professional development for faculty and peer facilitators participating in the program, and to work with BGSU’s academic affairs and student affairs offices to enhance student academic success. He will also serve as spokesperson for the program, assist in fund raising and promote research on values and civic engagement in higher education.

BGeXperience students arrive on campus shortly before the start of fall semester for an intensive, two-day introduction to critical thinking about values. Working in small groups with faculty members from various disciplines and a peer facilitator, they explore and begin to identify their own values, look at how values are implicit or explicit in everyday life, consider ethical issues they will face as college students and learn the University’s expectations of them.

The students then take a general education course, taught by the same faculty member who led their group, in which they examine how values are expressed in that discipline.

“This is a challenging and unique opportunity,” Agich said of his appointment. “I don’t know of any other program like this in the country. The scope is incredibly large and it is an inclusive program with faculty from across the campus.”

(Posted October 07, 2005)