News

Students Awarded Mayo Clinic Fellowships to Study Biomedical Ethics

by Robert Abare '13
Hailey Cleek ’16 and Adam Hunter ’15
(l-r) Adam Hunter ’15 and Hailey Cleek ’16 will spend the summer studying medical ethics at the Mayo Clinic.

Hailey Cleek '16 and Adam Hunter '15 will spend the upcoming summer at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., as the recipients of Vann Fellowships for Biomedical Ethics Research. Made possible through a generous gift from Jim Vann '50 and Lee Stanton Vann, the annually awarded Vann Fellowships allow two Davidson students to spend the summer learning from physicians and researchers within the Mayo Clinic Program in Professionalism and Ethics. The fellowships also include a stipend of $5,000.

The fellowships will allow Cleek and Hunter to research a broad variety of ethics-related topics at the Mayo Clinic, ranging from end-of-life care and surrogate decision-making to organ transplantation and stem cell research.

Both Hunter and Cleek are majoring in psychology with a concentration in medical humanities.

Cleek, who hails from Nashville, Tenn., and plans to attend law school after Davidson, is interested in using the opportunity to learn more about clinical ethics and medical law. "I applied to the Vann Fellowship because I'd like to learn how to balance the sometimes competing interests of patients and practicing medical professionals," she said.

Cleek also noted that now is a particularly appropriate time to learn more about medical law and clinical ethics. "With the recent introduction of the Affordable Care Act, we are going to see an explosion of interaction between medicine and law," she explained. "We live in this ever-changing landscape in both law and medicine, and it is our responsibility to relay new information to patients and physicians."

Hunter, a pre-medical student from Wilmington, N.C., is excited to expand his knowledge of medical practices at a world-class institution. "Last summer I traveled to Zambia with Davidson's premedical studies program, and I got to experience medical treatment in a developing country first-hand," he explained. "At the Mayo Clinic, one of the best hospitals in the world, I will learn how things operate at the other end of the healthcare spectrum."

Hunter is specifically interested in learning more about the ethical issues that surround stem cell and regenerative organ research. "No matter what research project I'm involved with at Mayo, what I learn will have a huge impact on my medical career," he said.

Last summer's Vann Fellows Betsy Gammon '14 and Gloria Bui '14 affirmed that Cleek and Hunter will enjoy a profound experience.

Gammon, a biology major with a medical humanities concentration, said, "By interacting with Mayo Clinic staff and placing myself in new and challenging situations, I constructed a deeper, more comprehensive understanding of bioethics in practice."

Bui, a history major completing the pre-medicine program, also gained much from the experience. "I left the Vann Fellowship better able to confidently defend my own views," she said. "The ability to persuasively support a position on a contentious subject is an invaluable skill, especially since ethical considerations are often pushed aside in favor of short-term expediencies."

Cleek also expressed her eagerness to gain hands-on experience working with physicians in a hospital. "Classroom instruction certainly provides guidelines for future work," she said, "but you never know how you're going to confront an ethical dilemma until you are placed directly in such a situation."

Anticipating his experiences this summer, Hunter concluded, "I'm looking forward to the Vann Fellowship because ethics is an excellent field of study necessary for creating well-informed consumers of healthcare and physicians equipped to deal morally with issues we face in modern medicine."