Ethics, as a discipline interdisciplinary in nature, is both necessary and integral to various careers including those in medicine, business, psychology, and law. The Master’s Degree in Ethics & Society at Fordham University is a 10-course, interdisciplinary program that can be completed in one year on a full time basis with the option to enroll on a part time basis. The program offers five optional areas of specialization including courses in Bioethics and Health Sciences, Environmental Ethics, Globalization and Human Rights, Ethics, Laws, and Policies, as well as Race, Gender, and Class.
On March 31st, 2021, the Fordham University Center for Ethics Education, jointly sponsored by the Fordham Unviersity HIV/Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute, hosted the annual “Careers in Ethics” panel featuring alumni of the Master’s Degree Program in Ethics & Society.
The alumni panelists included Samir Hafez Jr., JD, MA ‘14, Leah Ibrahim Puri, MA’ 18, and Patricia Voorhees, MA ‘13, and the panel was moderated by Dr. Steven Swartzer, the Center’s Associate Director of Academic Programs. The panel highlighted how ethics scholars can address important ethical and social issues in their every day lives, as well as in their work. Each panelist discussed their success in integrating ethics into their work in law, medicine, business, and human research protections, and how their ethics degree helped shape their career paths.
Samir Hafez Jr., JD, MA ‘14
Samir Hafez began his presentation with his career trajectory and how the ethics program shaped his trajectory. He is currently an Associate Attorney at Tosdal APC, an energy and environmental law firm based in San Diego California. Tosdal APC is “dedicated to helping clients navigate and shape rapidly changing industries in pursuit of a renewable and sustainable future.” Hafez is currently representing Southern California Community Choice aggregators (CCS), which are municipal energy providers that focus on expanding community access to renewable resources. His main focus is to ensure compliance with California’s environmental regulations, but also to advocate for their clients in front of the federal regulatory commissions. Prior to being an Associate Attoney, Samir worked as an analyst and institutional review board member (IRB) at San Diego University, reviewing social behavioral human subjects research projects.
Hafez shared that he valued the Ethics and Society Master’s Program at Fordham University and that it is a unique opportunity for scholars to gain a universal skill set that will set them apart from their peers and help them thrive in the field they choose. During his time in the master’s program, Hafez served as graduate assistant at Fordham’s Institutional Review Board (IRB), completed his externship, and wrote his capstone on different approaches to adverse events in research. Upon graduating from the program, he was hired as an assistant manager for Fordham’s IRB which helped him learn how to apply different rules to research ethics. Based on the education he received in the ethics program and experience managing Fordham’s IRB, he was an attractive candidate and received a career offer to work for the IRB at San Diego University.
Samir finished his presentation emphasizing that the ethics program trained him to meaningfully analyze laws and regulations and to consider the broader contexts of issues, as well as equipped him with the necessary skill set that allowed him to delve into cross-disciplinary moral and philosophical aspects of environmental and law issues in his career.
Leah Puri, MA’ 18
Leah Puri graduated from the Fordham University Ethics and Society Master’s Program in 2018 and is currently a medical student at Stony Brook School of Medicine. As an undergraduate at Fordham, Puri was passionate about medicine and majored in biology. During this time, she began to think about the social determinants of health and how it interacted with medicine and health care. After expressing her interest in understanding the ethical issues in medicine and health care on a deeper level, her theology professor recommended the Ethics and Society Master’s Program.
Puri went on to enroll as an accelerated student in the program. Her courses prepared her for working in the medical field, which included those in social work, urban planning, law, and bioethics. She stated that urban planning helped her understand that in the medical field, homelessness affects health car and her courses in social work equipped her with dealing with medical patients and case managers. Puri shared that the program also helped her practice mindfulness in her practice and gave her the tools to analyze the intricate steps that are involved in administering care on a patient and physician level to health care and how it is translated to the patient and their wellbeing. The program has also helped her conceptualize her medical career and approach while allowing her to explore her passion in advocacy.
During her time in the program, Puri became a research assistant at the Center for Ethics Education under the direction of Dr. Celia Fisher. As an assistant researcher, Puri began to build her research portfolio. The majority of the projects that Puri was involved in included topics such as psychology, informed consent, and physician and patient interactions with men who have sex with men. Through these projects, she discovered that her passion and interests were in sexual health and LGBTQ populations which was identified as her research interests in her medical school applications. Puri stated that the ethics program presented her with the opportunity to learn about ethical implications not only in a medical perspective, but in different aspects as well.
The Ethics and Society Program not only prepared Leah as a scholar to go on to medical school, but it also inspired her to speak with the administration at her school about important issues, to incorporate ethics into their curriculum, and to establish courses for other scholars to learn important ethical implications in medicine and health care. Puri is currently finishing her fourth year at Stony Brook University School of Medicine and is applying for her residency. She will be specializing in urology and sex medicine.
Patricia Voorhees, MA’ 13, began her presentation with a personal narrative about how her role in leading pricing for GE Capital during the financial crisis, as well as her role as a board member for a non-profit organization focused on breaking the cycle of poverty for women, inspired her to reflect on ethical issues. Voorhees began thinking about how to participate in the marketplace in an authentic way while also using her skills, talent, and experience to make changes in how capitalism and how some of the mechanisms of ethics work. She shared that her experience during the financial crisis was an example of how the economy is based on trust and was the backdrop of her decision to continue her education. Voorhees enrolled in the Ethics and Society Master’s Program at Fordham.
The interdisciplinary aspect and elements of the ethics program were fascinating to Voorhees because it educated her on the different dimensions of ethics in application with technological and financial services. After graduating from the program and resigning from her position at GE Capital, Voorhees was offered a role by the Gabelli School of Business to work with the consortium for trustworthy organizations.
During the year that she worked for the Gabelli School of Business, she assisted in helping with strategy, and putting together executive education summits and seminars about the importance of trustworthiness for organizations. Currently, Voorhees is the Director of The Alta Group and serves as an advisor and consultant for organizations helping them navigate financial technology models to focus on making them more sustainable and inclusive.
Question and Answers
Dr. Swartzer ended the panel with a question to each panelist on how ethical decision making plays a role in their careers, how these ethical decisions have been influenced by their experience in the ethics program, and if there are any courses in the program or experiences that they would consider formative about ethics and ethical decision making.
Voorhees answered by sharing that ethical issues that she is confronted with are around big data, which is defined as extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions (Dictionary.com). In accessing these concerns, she has to know where the data is coming from and if it is in compliance with laws and the organization itself. Voorhees also stated that understanding the culture and norms of a company she is advising is also an ethical issue given that they weren’t factors that were taken into consideration from a business standpoint in the past. The courses that Voorhees took during her time in the program that has influenced her work are the interdisciplinary, social justice, science, and theology courses which she shared were eye openers for her because it educated her on the various dimensions and frameworks of ethics and ethical problems. Learning about the interactions of different factors and distinctive frameworks from cultural, social, and spiritual perspectives helped Voorhees evolve and incorporate more values into her career.
Samir Hafez responded by stating that in his field of law, when advising clients on developing programs on access to solar projects or communities of concern, he faces environmental ethical issues. These issues revolve around who is intended to benefit and who is actually benefiting from these projects. Hafez stated that by presenting his clients with these potential ethical issues that may not be on their radar, they are able to avoid any unforeseen long-term issues. He also stated that taking courses in bioethics and conservation law in the program and the principles he learned has made an impact in his field and has helped him succeed as an attorney.
Finally, Leah Puri shared that in her field, she has to make daily judgement calls about a patient’s compliance with the treatment they are receiving and may face ethical issues regarding patient autonomy in particular. She also stated that her education and experience has played a major role in assisting ethics committees in hospital settings in making decisions. A course that Leah highlighted as a formative course that has helped her in her field of study were introduction to philosophy and urban planning courses. Puri highlighted that the courses were educationally stimulating, giving her a broader perspective of understanding the inner workings of ethical implications of philosophy, housing, and the environment. Leah also mentioned that the bioethics course was also a formative course that taught her about the importance of communication in research and how to work through her opinions on philosophical thoughts and how they translate on an academic level.
For information about the Fordham University Master’s Degree Program in Ethics and Society, please contact Dr. Steven Swartzer, the Center’s Associate Director of Academic Programs