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Founding Steering Committee

The UF-VA Bioethics Unit Chair

Joseph E. Thornton, M.D.

Dr. Joseph Thornton is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and serves as Chief of Psychiatric Services for UF Health Shands Hospital. He first joined the University of Florida College of Medicine faculty in the spring of 2010. He served 2 years as an attending faculty physician on the adult inpatient psychiatry unit at UF Shands Vista Hospital, and then for 2 years as a staff psychiatrist with the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center on the Consultation Liaison Service. He served 2016-2018 as the Associate Chief of Staff for Mental Health Services at the North Florida South Georgia Veterans Health System.

Dr. Thornton has been on the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of South Florida. From 1996 to 2003, Dr. Thornton was on the faculty of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. He was the Medical Director of the Inpatient Psychiatry Unit at University Hospital, founded the Safe Family Project (prevention of family violence) and co-founded the University Clinical Psychopharmacology Laboratory. He has over two- dozen publications and several teaching awards. From 2003 to 2010 Dr. Thornton served as the Medical Executive Director for the North Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center (NFETC).

The UF-VA Bioethics Secretary

Dawn-Christi M. Bruijnzeel, M.D.

Dr. Bruijnzeel received her undergraduate degree at the University of Florida in Neurobiological Sciences. She also completed medical school and the general psychiatry residency program at the University of Florida. Throughout her training, she developed an interest in schizophrenia and community psychiatry. She spent almost 7 years working on the inpatient psychiatric unit at the Malcolm Randall VA Medical Center where she ran a treatment team for patients with psychosis. In late 2011, she transitioned to a VA outpatient program called Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center (PRRC) that combines her interests in serious mental illness and community work. The program helps veterans with mental illness reintegrate into the community. In 2016, she once again moved back onto the inpatient psychiatry unit at the VA, where she currently serves as medical director and manages an inpatient team for veterans with psychotic disorders.

Dr. Bruijnzeel’s other clinical focus is the use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) as a treatment for mood disorders and thought disorders. As Director of ECT Services at the VA, she performs evaluations and ECT treatments for veterans. She has expanded the ECT program and is also working on establishing a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) program at the VA.

Chair of the Steering Committee

Rajiv Tandon, M.D.

Rajiv Tandon, MD, is the executive vice-chair and a professor at the University of Florida department of psychiatry. He also is chief of psychiatry at the Malcom Randall Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Formerly, he was promoted to Associate Professor, given Tenure and rose to Professor at the Department of Psychiatry in the University of Michigan Medical Center, Ann Arbor, from 1987-2004. In addition to his medical degree, he has a Master’s degree in Clinical Research Design and Statistical Analysis from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and a diploma in Business Administration from the Harvard University Business School. At the University of Michigan, he developed the clinical and research Schizophrenia Program, which was the sixth most published schizophrenia program in the world in the 1990’s.

Additionally, he held a variety of administrative responsibilities, including directing the Hospital Services Division (inpatient, consultation-liaison, and emergency psychiatry) and Division of Community Psychiatry from 1996-2000. From 1993-1996, he was the Director of the Adult Inpatient Psychiatry Program and the electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) Program. At the University of Michigan Medical Center, his clinical responsibilities were primarily on the adult inpatient unit, which he directed from 1993-1996. His research focus has been the psychopathology and neurobiology of schizophrenia. Since 2000, he has been a member of the Scientific Council of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and on the Board of Directors of the National Schizophrenia Foundation (Chair 2002-2005).


Veterans Hospital (VA) Members

Note: all have University of Florida faculty appointments

  • Joseph Thornton, M.D. (Head of the Unit, ex officio)
  • Dawn Bruijnzell, M.D. (Secretary of the Unit, ex officio)
  • Eloise Harmon, M.D. (Chair, VA Bioethics Committee; Director MICU at VA)
  • Lawrence Hood, M.D. (Associate Chief of Staff for Education)
  • Ronald I. Shorr, M.D. (Director, GRECC)
  • Uma Suryadevara, M.D. (VA Psychiatry Education Coordinator)
  • Ana Turner, M.D.( Psychiatry Medical Student Coordinator)
  • Stephen Welch, M.D. (Forensic Psychiatry)

University of Florida (UF Health) members

  • William L. Allen, J.D. (UF Bioethics Program)
  • Regina Bussing, M.D. Chair, Psychiatry – Child Psychiatry
  • Brian Cooke, M.D. ( Medical Student Education; UF Bioethics Committee)
  • Shenary Cotter, M.D. (UF Family Medicine, Global medicine program)
  • Jacqueline Hobbs, M.D. (Psychiatry residency Director, UF Bioethics Trained)
  • Lauren Solberg, J.D., M.T.S. (UF Bioethics Program)


  • Russell F D’Souza M.D. Head Asia Pacific Bioethics Program UNESCO Chair in Bioethics Australia
  • Caroline Nickerson, Executive Assistant, UF-VA UNESCO Bioethics Unit