History of the Center

The Indiana University Center for Bioethics was established on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in July 2001. The Center was initially created with funding from the Indiana Genomics Initiative (INGEN), which was established by a grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. to the Indiana University School of Medicine. In-kind support was provided by the School of Liberal Arts and the School of Law.  

For many years, faculty at both the IUPUI and Bloomington campuses recognized the need for a center.  Many bioethics initiatives, programs, courses, and seminars have existed, and some of the premier scholars in the country work in these programs and institutions. For example:

  • there are as many as 70 undergraduate and graduate course listings with bioethics content at IUPUI and Bloomington;

  • the IUPUI campus is home to a Medical Humanities Program located in the School of Liberal Arts;

  • some of the university affiliated hospitals have clinical ethics committees and consulting ethicists; and

  • the Poynter Center in Bloomington is among the leading centers in the country examining professional ethics issues, including a well-deserved reputation in teaching about research ethics.

The ground for the IU Center for Bioethics was substantially tilled by Dr. Greg Gramelspacher, one of a new breed of physicians who had received fellowship training in medical ethics. Greg established the School of Medicine's Program in Medical Ethics in 1992, and developed a plan for a Center for Health Care Ethics and Professionalism. That plan set the stage for other initiatives, including a visit in 1998 to IU by one of the world's foremost bioethicists, Dr. Edmund Pellegrino who recommended that a university center be created. A task force was established by Chancellor Bepko and the former Dean of Medicine, Robert Holden to propose a strategy for a university center.  The task force was chaired by Dr. Joe Mamlin who consulted with some of the country's leading bioethics scholars.. The recommendations of the MamlinTask Force-for a nationally respected, interdisciplinary center drawing on the expertise and support of many schools, including medicine, law, liberal arts and nursing-led to what has now become the IU Center for Bioethics, whose doors opened officially, if somewhat quietly, in July

The Center was developed as a university-wide entity, and no more evidence of its commitment to being truly a university center is needed than to point to the leadership and vision of Dr. Craig Brater, the Dean of Medicine, and Prof. Herman Saatkamp the Dean of IUPUI Liberal Arts as well as to the support of Deans Angela McBride and Norm Lefstein of the Schools of Nursing and Law respectively. The reservoir of goodwill and support they have collectively provided the Center has ensured that it will be off to a good start. Further evidence of the center's inter-disciplinarity is found in its first faculty appointments: Prof. Kim Quaid (Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics); Prof. Bill Schneider (Department of History); and Prof. David Orentlicher (School of Law).  Faculty at the IU Center for Bioethics conduct research, teach, and provide service in ethics and related fields.  Founding director Eric Meslin, Ph.D., led the Center from 2001 until early 2016.

On June 27, 2016, the IU School of Medicine announced the appointment of Peter H. Schwartz, M.D., Ph.D. as the Interim Director of the IU Center for Bioethics.  Dr. Schwartz was officially appointed the Director in 2017.

Dr. Schwartz is an Associate Professor of Medicine at IU School of Medicine and Director of the Bioethics and Subject Advocacy Program of the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI). He is also an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Indiana University – Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI), and practices adult outpatient medicine in the Eskenazi Health System. Since coming to the IU School of Medicine in 2005, Dr. Schwartz has conducted research on patient decision-making and risk communication in preventive and personalized medicine.  He has written widely on ethical issues in these and other areas.  He is currently principal investigator of a project examining risk communication and patient decision-making in colorectal cancer screening funded by a grant from the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).

For more information:

Dr. Schwartz’s bio and selected publications

IU Center for Bioethics

Center Reports

  • Indiana University Center for Bioethics. Indiana University Center for Bioethics: 10 years of tackling tough questions 2001-2011. Indiana University Center for Bioethics. 2011. PDF 
  • Indiana University Center for Bioethics. Indiana University Center for Bioethics: exploring ethical issues people face in health and science. A report to the University and community (2001-2007). Indiana University Center for Bioethics. May, 2007. [PDF - 1.08 MB]

  • Indiana University Center for Bioethics. Annual report 2003-2004. Indiana University Center for Bioethics. 2004. [PDF - 1.58 MB]


IU Center for Bioethics | 410 W. 10th St., Suite 3100 | Indianapolis, IN 46202 | Tel: 317-278-4034 | Fax: 317-278-4050