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UF-VA Bioethics Unit

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Culture Organization (UNESCO), recognizing the challenge of global medical care and newly emerging technologies, established a bioethics program in 1993. Over the next twenty years, several declarations were promulgated, but little impact could be seen in practice.  In 2001, with a vision to improve the teaching and practice in medical schools throughout the world, UNESCO established the Bioethics Chair with headquarters in Haifa, Israel (“Chair” is used in this language to mean program). The Chair grew to 150 units worldwide.  Through this program, UNESCO developed a Declaration on Bioethics in 2005, developed a core curriculum for teaching bioethics in 2008, and in 2011 produced a global guidebook in six languages for establishing bioethics committees. The Chair produced specialized curricula, coordinated activities for World Bioethics Day and promoted ethics education globally at all levels of health care. Activities of the UF-VA Unit are described under the “Activities” tab.

The USA has a robust bioethics infrastructure, primarily targeting research activities. However, according to the American Medical Association’s web page on International Medical Graduates, in the year 2006 International Medical Graduates from 127 countries counted as 228,665  (approximately 25%) physicians out of a total of 902,053 physicians in the USA. This global interconnectedness of medical practice compels a global dialogue on medical education, including global bioethical principles.

The UF-VA Bioethics Unit was originally established under the UNESCO Chair and is now under the International Chair in Bioethics that has an agreement with the World Medical Association.

Mission Statement of the UF-VA Bioethics Unit

The mission of the UF-VA Bioethics Unit is to promote the teaching of ethics into everyday clinical teachingImage of the UF-VA Bioethics Unit

Objectives of the UF-VA Bioethics Unit

  • Integrate principles of bioethics into daily clinical practice.
  • Increase the visibility of teaching bioethics in the clinical setting.

Proposed Activity framework for the UF-VA Bioethics Unit

The UF-VA Bioethics Unit complements and integrates the UF Bioethics Program and the VA integrated Ethics Program by developing, implementing and measuring the teaching of clinical ethics in clinical settings.

There is no financial arrangement between the World Medical Association, UF or the VA. There is substantial overlap in the objectives of the program, the objectives of the VA and the objectives of UF training programs.  The Director’s role is to develop those areas of overlap synergistically.

The UF-VA Bioethics Unit is supported by a multispecialty volunteer committee of faculty with primary appointments at the VA and UF-Shands.  Included on the Founding Steering Committee are members of the established UF Bioethics and Law and Medical Professionalism, as well as bioethics committee members from UF-Shands and the VA.

Attending our next meeting

Please email to receive a calendar invite for our next Unit meeting. You can dial-in remotely via zoom.

Contact: Joesph (Joe) E. Thornton, M.D.


Head, UF-VA UNESCO Bioethics Unit


Office: 352-548-6803

  • UF Health Shands Hospital
    • Chief of Psychiatric Services
  • University of Florida College of Medicine
    • Associate Professor of Psychiatry


Contact: Caroline Nickersoheadshotn

Executive Assistant, UF-VA UNESCO Bioethics Unit


Phone: 407-562-7793