BIOETHICS ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT OF THE QUARTER
Gretchen Spars McKee, MDiv, MA
Gretchen’s education in bioethics (MA ’12) has led to an exciting vocational journey. After graduating from the Divinity School at Wake Forest University (MDiv ’07), Gretchen found herself interested in the intersection between religion, medicine, and ethics. This was not an area she had necessarily pursued during her time in Divinity School, but she often found herself face-to-face with many of those questions – both professionally and personally.
Gretchen’s family has been confronted with her father’s diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia for the past 12 years. It was not until Gretchen was into her bioethics education that she recognized the many ethical and moral dilemmas her family had faced. She explains, “the bioethics graduate program widened my perspective on medical ethics and, in a roundabout way, helped my family weed through some difficult conversations.”
Gretchen recounts that she always felt incredibly welcomed and encouraged throughout her time in the bioethics program. She enjoyed being a part of a program that was so strongly rooted in rigorous academic integrity but also encouraged faculty/student social interactions. She is honored to consider the faculty and staff not only as mentors but also as colleagues, and looks forward to reconnecting with faculty, staff, alumni, and current students in the program at events such as the ASBH (American Society for Bioethics & Humanities) Annual Meeting.
For her thesis, Gretchen integrated several of her passions into one academic project – dance, narrative ethics, religion, and end-of-life care. The structure of the thesis requirement provided an avenue for her to link together her religious education, bioethics courses, dance training, and clinical pastoral education residency into a culminating event: a dance that she choreographed, scored, performed, discussed with three different audiences, and wrote about. The faculty guided, supported, pushed, and encouraged her throughout this process and in turn gave her a newfound confidence in the ever-growing field of bioethics.
After her graduation, Gretchen served as the first Outreach Coordinator for the graduate program in bioethics. In 2013, Gretchen and her husband moved their family back “home” to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Two little girls later, they are busy working, happily settling into their new home, helping care for her father, and adjusting to the cold winters! Currently, her work comes jointly from several jobs. In one role, she is an adjunct teacher in the Religion Department at Augustana College, where she instructs undergraduates in a course on religion, medicine, and ethics. She also serves as a faculty member in the Section for Ethics at the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine, partnering with other faculty to integrate ethics into the medical school curriculum for current medical students. Finally, she spends most of her time as an Ethics Consultant with the DeGroot Center at Sanford Hospital. Her education has proven to be exceptionally relevant and resourceful so far in her career; in fact, she often reaches back to her bioethics education by reviewing papers and class notes. The combination of her MA in Bioethics and MDiv has provided her professional opportunities she never would have imagined!
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