Profile: Berman Institute Director Ruth Faden

Featured in the December 2012 Hadassah Magazine

By Barbara Pash

When Ruth Faden looks back on her long career, she can pinpoint the moment she decided to go into public health. 

She was doing her master’s degree in American studies at the University of Chicago, working for a professor doing research on female contraception. Her job was to recruit young women to test a new intrauterine device. She considered volunteering to use the IUD herself. But when Faden told the professor—whom she remembers as a kind and caring person—his response shocked her: “Oh no, my dear,” he replied, “why don’t you wait until we know more.” 

“It turned my world upside down,” says Faden, who was horrified that she had been recruiting women for such a risky project. She changed her course of study, and got a master’s and a doctoral degree in public health, both from the University of California Berkeley, and embarked on a new career. 

Faden is the founder of Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, and has been the director since it opened in 1995. The institute focuses on the ethics of clinical practice, biomedical science and public health locally and globally, and engages students and policymakers in discussions of those issues. Located on the Johns Hopkins East Baltimore Medical Campus, site of Hopkins Hospital and Kennedy Krieger Institute, the institute, with a staff of over 30 core and affiliated faculty, is one of the largest such facilities in the world. Since inception, the institute has received more than $30 million in federal research funds and $49 million in philanthropic support. 

Not only did she help found the premier institute on bioethics, Faden has also written seminal books in the field and won numerous awards, most recently the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award granted to Faden and her husband, bioethicist Tom Beauchamp, by Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing the highest ethical standards in the conduct of research. …

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