April 04, 2017

University of Michigan medical student selected for unique international ethics program

Rebecca Grossman-Kahn will travel to Germany and Poland to study the conduct of executives and managers in Nazi-occupied Europe as a way to reflect on ethics in business and leadership

Medical student Rebecca Grossman-Kahn

Rebecca Grossman-Kahn is one of 15 medical students chosen by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE) to participate this summer in a two-week program in Germany and Poland which uses the conduct of executives and managers in Nazi-occupied Europe as a way to reflect on ethics in business and leadership today.

Now in its eighth year of operation, FASPE provides a unique historical lens to engage graduate students in professional schools as well as early-stage practitioners in five fields (business, journalism, law, medicine and seminary) in an intensive course of study focused on contemporary ethical issues in their professions.

“By educating students about the causes of the Holocaust and the power of their chosen professions, FASPE seeks to instill a sense of professional responsibility for the ethical and moral choices that the fellows will make in their careers and in their professional relationships,” says David Goldman, FASPE founder and chairman.

Prior to World War II, German professionals were well regarded internationally. In many respects, they set the standard for a commitment to quality of practice and for independence from state and political influence. Yet, leaders and practitioners in each of the professions, and often the institutions they represented, were fundamentally involved in designing, enabling, and/or executing the crimes of Nazi Germany. FASPE studies the perpetrators to emphasize the essential role of professionals and to ask how and why professionals abandon their ethical guideposts.

The FASPE medical program examines the role of physicians and the medical profession in the Nazi state, underscoring the reality that moral codes governing doctors can break down or be distorted with devastating consequences. With this historical background, the medical fellows are better positioned (and more willing) to confront contemporary issues.

“My interest in medical ethics grew out of my work in health disparities and global health prior to beginning medical school,” says Grossman-Kahn, currently a dual M.D./MBA student at the U-M, “As a future physician, I hope to increase opportunities for reflection and sharing, acknowledging mistakes, and processing difficult encounters on the wards. I hope that the intensive experience discussing professional ethics with my peers [at FASPE] will help me refine the ethical questions I hope to address in my work and develop strategies to make an impact.”

Grossman-Kahn, who grew up in Seattle and the San Francisco Bay area, received a B.A. in human biology from Stanford University and worked as a research assistant on health disparities and medical devices following college. She also spent time researching infectious diseases and working for an NGO. Her focus at medical school includes medical humanities, primary care, and community health.

She joins a diverse group of 63 FASPE fellows across all five programs who were chosen through a competitive process that drew close to 1,000 applicants from around the world.