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Prime Time: Ethics is academic for Union professor

Thursday, November 7, 2013
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Professor  Martin Strosberg teaches a course at Union Graduate College.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson
Professor Martin Strosberg teaches a course at Union Graduate College.

If there is a shortage of beds in the intensive care unit, who should get the last one?

That’s the sort of question that drives the work of Martin Strosberg.

The 66-year-old Niskayuna resident teaches bioethics and health care management at Union Graduate College, with a focus on public policy as it relates to ethical issues.

Thanks to a grant from the National Institutes of Health, for the past eight years, Strosberg has been teaching students in 15 or 16 other countries as well.

The overseas program, which involves students from countries including Lithuania, Estonia, Russia and Latvia, trains scholars to work as ethics consultants who advise hospital ethics committees on end-of-life and beginning-of-life issues and other ethical quandaries patients have.

Another career path is in research ethics, which deals with the protection of human subjects taking part in clinical trials or any type of medical experiment.

“When drug companies or basic research is moving to undeveloped countries, which may not have the ethical traditions or the infrastructure that we have or western Europe has, there’s an opportunity for exploitation of those patients,” he said. “We want to make sure that humans as guinea pigs are treated ethically.”

Most of the courses for overseas scholars are taught online, but during the summer, Strosberg and other faculty members go to the students, through a partnership with Vilnius University in Lithuania. Some of the students come to the United States to earn a master’s degree in bioethics at Union Graduate College.

Bioethical issues often come to the forefront during emergencies and disasters, Strosberg noted.

“If there’s a scarce vaccine, how do you allocate the scarce vaccine? Or in the case of a hurricane or a disaster, there may not be enough hospital services or breathing machines. There are very difficult questions this society has to grapple with,” he said.

Day-to-day public policy issues include taking care of the underserved population and making sure mental health patients get the care they need.

“I think Schenectady is making good headway with Ellis and Hometown Health all coming together to take over the Schenectady Free Health Clinic population,” he commented.

Strosberg was an advisor for the clinic, which has since stopped operating. He assisted with management issues and encouraged his students to become volunteers there.

During the avian flu scare and amid fears of smallpox bioterrorism following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Strosberg helped Schenectady County Public Health Services think through its responses to the crises.

He has also served on public policy committees and ethics committees for the Society of Critical Care Medicine.

In addition to bioethics classes, Strosberg teaches in the health care management program at Union Graduate College, a line of study that prepares students to work in management positions at hospitals, nursing homes, health departments and physicians’ practices.

Colleague Robert Baker, the William D. Williams Professor of Philosophy at Union College and a professor of bioethics at Union Graduate College, said Strosberg is the kind of guy who can move mountains.

“The interesting thing about Marty is, if he thinks something ought to be talked about or people ought to know about something, he is perfectly willing to go to some famous foundation like the Brookings Foundation and say, ‘You need to put on a conference about this,’ and they will do it,” he said. “What Marty has is a certain amount of audacity. He’s knowledgeable, charming and willing to do engaging things at any level.”

In his spare time, Strosberg plays tuba with Esperance’s town band and enjoys spending time with his grandchildren.

“I’m basically an academic who has some outside interests,” he said.

Reach Gazette reporter Kelly de la Rocha at 395-3040 or kdelarocha@dailygazette.net and follow her on Twitter at @KellydelaRocha.

 
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comments

November 8, 2013
7:53 a.m.
grant18 says...

Very interesting questions. Too bad the reporter didn't report some of her interviewee's answers.

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