Pioneering psychiatrist earns MacLean Center Prize in Clinical Ethics

Pioneering psychiatrist earns MacLean Center Prize in Clinical Ethics

$50,000 prize awarded to Stanford bioethicist during 27th annual Dorothy MacLean Fellows Conference at the University of Chicago

November 2, 2015

The 2015 MacLean Center Prize in Clinical Ethics and Health Outcomes, a $50,000 award, will be presented to Laura Roberts, MD, MA, a graduate of the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, who is chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine and an internationally recognized scholar in bioethics, psychiatry, medicine and medical education.

Roberts, who is the Katharine Dexter McCormick and Stanley McCormick Memorial Professor, will receive the MacLean Center prize, the largest prize in bioethics and clinical ethics, during the 27th annual Dorothy J. MacLean Fellows Conference on ethics in medicine. The prize will be presented to Dr. Roberts by Holly Humphrey, MD, dean for medical education at the University of Chicago.

The conference will be held on Friday, Nov. 13, and Saturday, Nov. 14, at the University of Chicago Law School, 1111 E. 60th St.

To learn more about the conference and to register visit

"Laura Roberts was one of the first graduates of the MacLean Center's Clinical Ethics Fellowship training program. Throughout her distinguished career as an academic leader, Dr. Roberts has applied her knowledge of clinical ethics to improve patient care, medical education, and the practice of American psychiatry," said Mark Siegler, MD, director of the MacLean Center and the Lindy Bergman Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine and Surgery. "To advance these causes, Dr. Roberts has authored 15 books and more than 300 articles and chapters."

Roberts has dedicated much of her career studying vulnerable and special populations, particularly those with serious disability and life-threatening diseases and who often experience societal and economic adversity. Her work has led to advances in understanding the ethical aspects of physical and mental illness research, societal implications for genetic innovation, the role of stigma in health disparities, the impact of medical student and physician health issues and optimal approaches to fostering professionalism in medicine.

"My work has focused on understanding the experiences and strengths of the most seriously ill, most marginalized, and most poorly understood of our patients. This year's MacLean Prize is so special for its focus on vulnerable populations," said Roberts. "The prize honors these individuals who teach us about medicine, and about life, as they face great sorrow and injustices with courage and generosity."

Previous winners of the MacLean Center Prize are:

  • Susan Tolle, MD, professor of medicine in the Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine and director of the OHSU Center for Ethics in Health Care. She is one of the founders of the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) movement in Oregon and nationally.
  • Peter Singer, MD, MPH, CEO of Grand Challenges Canada, an international leader in the field of global health care ethics.
  • John Wennberg, MD, a Dartmouth professor who founded the national movement in evaluative clinical sciences. He is director emeritus of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice.

The MacLean Center, which pioneered the formal study of clinical medical ethics in the early 1980s, has the world's largest clinical medical ethics program for health care providers. The center's two-day conference, which is free and open to the public, is one of the center's marquee events.

This year's conference includes panel presentations by distinguished national ethics leaders addressing wide-reaching topics such as:

  • Health care rationing
  • The ethics of living organ donation
  • Technology's role on the doctor-patient relationship
  • Improving shared decision-making with LGBT racial and ethnic minority populations
  • High-risk surgical procedures, among other topics

About 500 people are expected to attend one or both days of the conference.

Of the 410 fellows who have trained at the MacLean Center since 1981, more than 270 are physicians and more than two dozen are currently directing or have directed clinical medical ethics programs in the United States, Canada, Europe and China. Twenty-five fellows have held endowed chairs, and graduates from the program are on faculties at more than 40 U.S. universities.

Collectively, MacLean Center alumni have published 175 books. While most fellows are physicians, others come from different disciplines, including philosophy, theology, nursing, law and social sciences.

In addition to the annual conference, the MacLean Center is also holding its 34rd annual interdisciplinary lecture series, which runs through May. This year's lectures all examine critical issues in Neuroethics, a new field that has emerged because of recent advances in neuroscience research and practice.