Spotlight on Alumni

BIOETHICS ALUMNI OF THE QUARTER

August 2019

Jon Olson, MA

Jon received his Master of Arts in Bioethics from Wake Forest University in 2017.  Prior to joining the program, Jon was a medic in the United States Air Force and received his bachelor’s degree in philosophy. The two combined into bioethics, as he leaned toward the philosophical side more than the clinical practice side.

Why did you seek a Graduate Degree in Bioethics?
I always enjoyed working with people, and being able to help aid in their health was a very important aspect to what I wanted out of a career. I thought I was leaving the USAF to become a Physician Assistant, but that was quickly derailed after I took an Introduction to Philosophy course at my community college. One week into that class and I knew I was going to study philosophy and ethics. During my last semester of my undergraduate degree (in philosophy) I was contacted by the Bioethics Program at WFU. It was the perfect combination of ethics and medicine that I was looking for!

What stands out in your memory as you revisit your time in the Bioethics Program? 
I will never forget the professors. They were true mentors. Their love and passion for the program shines through everything that they do. They handle themselves professionally, while being very approachable. They always entertained unique ideas, topics, and discussions both in and out of the classroom.

Also, the flexibility and encouragement of studying specific topics in bioethics, or creating a unique thesis. For example, I created a cooperative board game where the players must make a group decision about how to respond to many types of bioethical situations. Many graduate programs would not allow something like that. Instead of discouraging or prohibiting this type of thesis, the faculty embraced it. In fact, it was one of the professors who came up with the idea!

How has your degree enhanced your career? 
I would not have been a strong candidate for my current position without my bioethics degree. Being familiar with ethical issues in clinical research gave me a leg up in the field of regulatory. Learning about equality and equity of subjects, potentials for coercion and exploitation, studying the Code of Federal Regulations, and many other topics made understanding the informed consent process much easier. The specific discussions from classes that focused on clinical research or classes that involved understanding informed consent are directly related to my current job in the regulatory field of clinical research.

What makes your work unique because of your Bioethics Degree?
I work in clinical research where I interact with Institutional Review Boards and clinical research personnel on a regular basis. I also review protocols and informed consent forms regularly. I get to use my Bioethics degree every day in helping to design and ensure that studies are being performed properly and ethically.

What else would you like to share?
This program was such a great experience. I will never forget my time at Wake Forest, the professors, or the students. For a long time I didn’t know what I was truly interested in academically. After I realized that I loved philosophy (specifically ethics), but still wanted to be a part of medicine, this program helped my passion turn into a reality, when I thought it was just a hobby.

Jon currently lives in the Charlottesville, Virginia area and works at the University of Virginia Center for Diabetes Technology.

 

Click here to see previous Alumni Spotlights

The Alumni Directory is available from Vicky Zickmund, MBA, MHS, Associate Director, Graduate Programs in Bioethics

To become a CBHS member please send your name, e-mail address, and relevant occupational information (e.g. organization, position, etc.) if any, to bioethics@wfu.edu.