Growing in Activism through Medical Ethics

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2021 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Brinn Gammer, COL ’24

When I initially set out to find research at Penn this spring, I was daunted by the impressive range of the faculty involved and the scope of the topics investigated. As a neuroscience major interested in public policy, bioethics, and law, I was searching for something that encompassed not only research in the medical field but also that that affected others by means of awareness and access. I’m elated to say that I found my niche through Penn Career Services, having worked with Dr. Dominic Sisti in the Scattergood Program for Applied Ethics of Behavioral Healthcare in the Division of Medical Ethics at the Perelman School of Medicine.

The scope of Dr. Sisti’s work is one that I admired even prior to reaching out to him; between ethical advocacy, serious mental illness in correctional facilities, and experimental behavioral health therapies, these intriguing topics lied at the junction of mental health and policy. Beyond occasional work in high school, I did not have much experience in research, but throughout the summer, I was able to develop invaluable skills across both science- and humanity-based fields. Perhaps the bulk of my work thus far with the Scattergood Program has been in conducting literature reviews, and the breadth of topics has been expansive: music digital phenotyping, psychedelic palliative care, ethics and algorithm design, index traumas and the possible expansion of DSM-V criterion A for PTSD, physical disability and MDD/PTSD comorbidity, racial bias in medicine and biotechnology, and music and the psychedelic experience. Major themes of the summer included exploring possibly outmoded definitions in mental health, whether they be in regard to diagnoses or treatment. Further, out of this research has come several other fantastic opportunities.

Firstly, I worked with graduate students at Penn Medicine and Dr. Sisti to suggest a course curriculum for a medical school course in bioethics, wherein students would investigate topics such as the ethics of brain death. I also edited and was acknowledged in a paper on borderline personality disorder within the scope of therapeutic privilege. The most exciting activities of the summer were indubitably getting the chance to write on topics that interested me personally: I wrote an op-ed on the prioritization of wellness at Penn—which I am looking to get published over the coming weeks—and I am set to work with Penn faculty to publish a paper on accessibility in psychedelic assisted therapy this semester. Most recently, I am now working with a public benefit corporation in mental health care to create ethical benchmarks for their organization.

I consider myself very lucky to have been able to take advantage of this opportunity in medical ethics, and I have found it highly enriching. While I’m still uncertain of what my exact career path will be, having gotten to work with brilliant minds in fields such as forensic psychiatry and public health has opened my eyes to the many ways in which I can explore using my voice to advocate on behalf of others. Additionally, the connections I have made through this summer research program extend far beyond, as I seek collaboration between my internship in public health and the Scattergood Program.

I’m incredibly grateful for the funding and support I received from Penn Career Services that catalyzed it, and I cannot wait to continue to learn about oftentimes fun and interesting fields while developing my goals in advocacy.

By Career Services
Career Services