Kari Neutzling ’14 completed biomedical ethics research as part of a competitive Mayo Clinic fellowship.
How do physicians discuss potentially debilitating or even fatal diseases with their patients?
That is one of the ethical issues explored this summer at the Mayo Clinic by Kari Neutzling ’14, St. Cloud, Minn., through the Vann Fellowship in biomedical ethics research.
Neutzling, a biology major currently applying to medical schools, competed against applicants from across the nation for the honor. She spent eight weeks working with physicians and research mentors within the Mayo Clinic Program in Professionalism and Ethics.
During the fellowship she studied ethical issues in three areas: biomedical research, life-sustaining treatments, and genetic testing and therapies.
“The majority of my time was spent coding transcripts of interviews with patients, physicians and health professionals,” says Neutzling. “Most of our work centered ethical concerns in genome screening.”
Through gene screening, physicians can find and treat a disease, but questions arise when other diseases are discovered in the process, Neutzling says.
For example, a physician studying a patient’s genes to treat cancer might discover a predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease. Does the physician tell the patient? How much would a patient want to know? When is an appropriate time to discuss it?
“These are very challenging questions for health professionals,” says Neutzling. “Our study was an attempt to develop some black and white policies in a very gray area of medicine.”
Biomedical ethics research is so new, there are no sure answers or policies in place, she says.
“We do think that patients want black and white answers,” she says. “They want to know the specifics of what’s wrong.”
Neutzling says one concern for health professionals is working with the “worried well,” healthy people who want gene screening to learn what might lie ahead for them.
“Kari is very passionate about service to others,” says Dr. Julie Rutherford, associate professor of biology, who urged Neutzling to apply for the Mayo fellowship. “She is someone who wants to see that social justice is served."
More About Kari
Worked in a Tanzanian hospital in high school as part of a service trip
Completed a summer internship at a hospital in Ethiopia
Involved in Habitat for Humanity
Has completed vaccine research