Ethics, Healthcare, and Emotional Well-being

March 30, 2023 to March 31, 2023

Recent ongoing events—the COVID-19 pandemic, opioid and gun violence crises, misinformation and  widening social, economic, and political gaps—have wreaked havoc on the emotional well-being and morale of the healthcare workforce. Patients and the public, including young people, are experiencing increased rates of anxiety, depression, and despair. The sessions comprising this conference will explore the ethical foundation for providing resources to support the mental health of clinicians and patients. In addition to examining the ethical values that mandate such support, it will provide practical humanities-based resources for those struggling with loss of hope, identity, opportunities, colleagues, or loved ones. It will provide bioethics-informed understanding of emerging interventions to support emotional well-being, including emerging pharmacologic and digital interventions. 

Target Audience

Nurse, Nurse Practitioner, Pharmacist, Pharmacy Technician, Physician, Physician Assistant, Psychologist, Social Worker, Bioethicists, Chaplains, Healthcare Administrators, Health Policy Researchers.

Learning Objectives

Following the sessions comprising this conference, participants should be able to:
1.    Articulate the ethical foundation for integration of personal and professional identity, and resources to support identity integrity and emotional well-being when these are threatened
2.    Employ a “writing the self” approach to clarifying and addressing loss of various types
3.    Evaluate the ethical issues, practical considerations, and institutional challenges associated with employing psychedelics for mental health
4.    Analyze ethical and policy/regulatory challenges with regard to the use of digital technologies for mental health care and emotional support, as well as the risks to mental health present by other digital technologies

Course summary
Available credit: 
  • 6.00 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™
    The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
  • 6.00 Attendance
Course opens: 
Course expires: 
Event starts: 
03/30/2023 - 3:00pm EDT
Event ends: 
03/31/2023 - 1:00pm EDT

Thursday, March 30, 2023

3:00 – 5:00 pm | Lecture and Workshop Session

Space is limited for this in-person workshop; pre-registration is required.

Writing for Well-being in Loss, Grief, and Transition

Reinekke Lengelle, PhD

Associate Professor, The Hague University, The Netherlands
Creator of the Career Writing Method

Although most people can grieve without professional help, as humans, we are compelled to make meaning of death and non-death losses. Grieving involves finding new ground through sensemaking and allowing our feelings to help us adapt. Writing is a way to do this and can even promote the cultivation of personal wisdom in the wake of devastating change. We recognize such wisdom when we begin to say things like “deep down, I know that...” and “part of me already accepts that...” and “the truth is that I'm afraid of...,” though spoken insights can feel fleeting and ethereal. By writing, we create a visible point of reflection between the eyes and the page and are better able to slow down to re-story experience. This 2-hour workshop invites participants to write in response to a question they have about loss. The facilitator will introduce the model of transformation-through-writing which she co-developed, and used herself when she wrote her bereavement autoethnography, mourning her spouse’s death in 2018. Writing exercises include: a structured form of journaling, the uses of poetry, and the wisdom of the voice(s) within. No special creative writing experience is needed.

Following this workshop, participants should be able to

  1. Outline the process and goals of “writing the self.”
  2. Use writing to identify unresolved conflicts or unresolved “business” related to loss, whether loss of a person, an opportunity, a dream, or an aspect of one’s identity.
  3. Use the “writing the self” method to make progress toward resolution, integration, or increased comfort with what was previously unresolved.

Friday, March 31, 2023

8:45 -8:55 am

Welcome, Introduction to Conference Topics, and Explanation of Conference Format

Lisa S. Parker, PhD

Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote Professor of Bioethics

Director, Center for Bioethics & Health Law

University of Pittsburgh

8:55 – 9:55 am | Session One | Keynote Lecture

Identity and Integrity: The Ethical Foundations to Support Clinician Well-Being

Mark T. Hughes, MD, MA

Berman Institute of Bioethics Faculty

Assistant Professor of Medicine

Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Each person’s identity includes a moral dimension, encompassing the values, character, commitments, and worldview that make each a unique individual. When one becomes a clinician, one’s personal identity must  must integrate a professional identity that incorporates the norms of one’s profession and the interprofessional team. As clinicians fulfill their role responsibilities over time, they develop a sense of integrity that shapes how they respond to moral adversity. If core moral values are transgressed in their clinical roles, clinicians can develop moral distress, which then threatens their overall well-being. As the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated, inadequate attention to either integrity or well-being can lead to burnout and resignation. The antidote is fostering moral communities of practice where ethical commitments are acknowledged, relational integrity is fostered, and wellness practices are encouraged.

Following this presentation, participants should be able to:

  1. Describe the relationship between professional integrity and well-being
  2. Discuss how relationships within the healthcare team play a key role in well-being initiatives
  3. Describe how moral resilience skills promote the well-being of clinicians

9:55 – 10:00 am | Break

10:00 – 10:25 am | Session Two

Not Just Talking about Values, Talking to Save Lives: The Physician Support Line

Mona Masood, DO

Outpatient psychiatrist, Philadelphia, PA

Founder and Chief Organizer of the Physician Support Line

The pandemic not only brought US healthcare’s deep structural problems to the attention of the public, but also brought healthcare workers to the brink—the brink of emotional crisis, mental health breakdown, quitting, and even suicide. I would like to share what we learned through the Physician Support Line about what needs to be done to improve our healthcare system, attract and retain clinicians, and sustain their compassion and well-being. Through a structured, narrative approach—because I believe sharing our narratives is ethically and emotionally important—I will describe essential ethical goals for the next chapter of American healthcare.

Following this presentation, participants should be able to:

  1. Analyze the ethical values implemented by the creation of the Physician Support Line (PSL)
  2. Recognize signs of emotional need and mental health crisis in themselves and others
  3. Refer colleagues (or themselves) to identified mental health / emotional support resources
  4. Apply methods of support demonstrated by PSL narratives to support colleagues in healthcare settings

10:25 – 10:45 am

Conversation between Dr. Masood and Dr. Hughes

10:45 – 11:00 am

Audience questions addressed by Dr. Masood and Dr. Hughes

11:00 am – noon | Session Three | The Ira R. Messer Lecture

Ethical and Policy Issues in Using Psychedelics for Mental Health

Amy L. McGuire, JD, PhD

Leon Jaworski Professor of Biomedical Ethics and Director

Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy
Baylor College of Medicine

While the 1970s “War on Drugs” cast psychedelics as a public health threat, researchers and many people struggling with their mental health have long been interested in the potential for psychedelics to improve mood and quality of life. In January of this year, Oregon became the first state to allow adult use of psilocybin. Research on the therapeutic potential of psychedelics is complicated by the political and regulatory landscape, their potential for recreational use, and people’s attempts to “self-medicate” using them. This talk will explore the history, regulatory landscape, and ethical and policy considerations surrounding research on—and prescribing of—psychedelics like psilocybin.

Following this presentation, participants should be able to:

  1. Enumerate the steps in US social and policy history regarding psychedelics from the 1970s to Oregon’s recent legalization of adult use of psilocybin.
  2. Analyze ethical and policy/regulatory challenges in conducting research on the use of psychedelics in mental health treatment.
  3. Evaluate the ethical issues, practical considerations, and institutional challenges associated with prescribing psychedelics.

Noon – 1:00 pm | Session Four

Digital Technologies and Mental Health: Risks, Opportunities, and Ethical Challenges

Brian A. Primack, MD, PhD, MS, EdM

Dean and Professor

College of Public Health and Human Sciences

Oregon State University

Digital technologies have provided a metaphorical and occasional literal lifeline for many during the COVID-19 pandemic. To a degree never before witnessed, people depended on them to stay connected and access information (including education for students at all stages). Misinformation has also been spread and relied upon, sometimes with tragic results, to an unparalleled degree in recent years. Social media have been found to have a negative effect on the emotional well-being and mental health of many people, particularly many adolescents and young adults. Yet during the pandemic, mental health apps expanded access to healthcare for many people. This talk will explore these positive and negative developments in the digital domain, and will identify ethical challenges facing attempts to regulate these technologies to promote their beneficial use. Even if Google has removed “don’t be evil” from its Code of Conduct, what ethically justifiable steps can be taken to help ensure that digital technologies don’t do damage to users’ emotional and mental health?

Following this presentation, participants should be able to:

  1. Describe key findings regarding the use of social media and increases in depression, social isolation, and anxiety.
  2. Discuss the social context, economic pressures, and ethical challenges in regulating social media to reduce negative effects on mental, emotional, and physical health.
  3. Analyze ethical and policy/regulatory challenges with regard to the use of digital technologies for mental health care and emotional support.

1:00 pm | Adjournment

Live Virtual Conference (ZOOM webinar)
United States

Course director:
Lisa S. Parker, PhD, Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote Professor of Bioethics and Director of the Center for Bioethics & Health Law, University of Pittsburgh

Conference planning committee:
•    Philip Empey, PharmD, PhD, Associate Professor of Pharmacy and Therapeutics, University of Pittsburgh
•    Richard K. Morycz, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Medicine, and Social Work, University of Pittsburgh
•    John “Jack” Rozel, MD, MSL, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Adjunct Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh*
•    Valerie Satkoske, MSW, PhD, VP of Mission Effectiveness, Ethics, and Volunteer Service, UPMC Mercy; VP Ethics UPMC and UPMC PUH/SHY; System Leader, UPMC Volunteer Services
     VP Ethics UPMC and UPMC PUH/SHY; VP Mission Effectiveness, Spiritual Care, and Ethics UPMC Mercy   Vice President for Ethics for UPMC Mercy Hospital, UPMC Presbyterian University/Shadyside Hospitals, and the UPMC health system*
•    Jamie Zelazny, PhD, MPH, RN, Assistant Professor of Health & Community Systems, University of Pittsburgh **
*  Center for Bioethics & Health Law faculty member
**Center for Bioethics & Health Law affiliated faculty member 

In support of improving patient care, the University of Pittsburgh is jointly accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), to provide continuing education for the healthcare team.

Physician (CME)
The University of Pittsburgh designates this live activity for a maximum of 6.0 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Other health care professionals will receive a certificate of attendance confirming the number of contact hours commensurate with the extent of participation in this activity.

Available Credit

  • 6.00 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™
    The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
  • 6.00 Attendance
Please login or register to take this course.

Contact Mia Spinelli, course coordinator
Phone: 412-648-7007