Lainie Ross, MD, PhD, an internationally renowned bioethicist who is building a bold new department at the University of Rochester Medical Center, has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), an organization comprised of the best of the best in American health care and academic medicine.
Academy members are elected by their peers and provide expert advice nationally and internationally on health, medicine, and related policy.
Ross, a pediatrician and philosopher, joined URMC in 2023 as the inaugural chair of the department of Health Humanities and Bioethics and director of the Paul M. Schyve, MD, Center for Bioethics. She was recognized by NAM for her nearly three decades of work on ethical and policy issues related to organ transplantation, genetics and genomics, clinical research ethics, human subject protections, and pediatrics. Ross recently led a group of national experts who developed new consensus recommendations for pediatric decision-making, and she is also known for her work around issues of equity and inclusion for solid organ transplant patients.
"We knew we'd recruited someone of national prominence when Dr. Ross joined us, and this honor highlights that fact beautifully," said Mark Taubman, MD, CEO of URMC and dean of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. "Her election to NAM is a well-deserved recognition of her exemplary contributions to the field including her prominent work on ethical and policy issues related to pediatrics, organ transplantation, genetics and genomics, and research, and she is arguably the most influential, accomplished, and important pediatric ethicist of our time. I know NAM will benefit from her expertise just as we are here at URMC, where she is working to focus further attention on the moral aspects of our research and patient care programs."
Ross, who has been active on several NAM committees, was nominated for NAM membership just prior to her arrival at URMC.
“To be honest, I’d forgotten about it,” she said, laughing. “I was totally surprised when I learned I’d been elected: My first reaction was, ‘What?!’ It’s awe-inspiring to see the company this puts me in, both nationally and here at URMC, and I’m looking forward to playing an increased role in NAM and to furthering its valuable mission.”
Ross has published five books and more than 225 peer-reviewed journal articles, and she lectures both nationally and internationally. At URMC, her work focuses on the moral aspects of research and patient care. These aren’t abstract issues: They directly impact the patient experience.
“We help doctors understand that patients are people, and that it’s vital to contextualize disease within a patient’s life and to listen and validate the patient’s perspective,” she said. “Every clinical encounter is a moral encounter. Clinicians constantly face new situations, and we can offer tools and resources to address controversial and complex cases, as well as ensure that future clinicians are equipped with the best education and training in bioethics and health humanities.”
URMC has made a commitment to that cause through the new department Ross leads. The medical center—known for its innovative biopsychosocial framework, which emphasizes caring for the whole person, not just a given condition—was among the first in the country with a humanities division. Now it’s just one of eight academic medical centers in the nation with a dedicated humanities and bioethics department.
“We want all medical students, regardless of their areas of study, to discuss ethics and humanities in every course, because that’s what will make them better physicians,” Ross said. “In an age of medical skepticism, we want our institution to be a national beacon in these areas.”
Past NAM inductees from URMC include Lynne Maquat in the department of Biochemistry and Biophysics; Seymour I. Schwartz in Surgery; Elizabeth R. McAnarney in Pediatrics; Paul S. Frame in Family Medicine; and Robert C. Griggs in Neurology.