Ethics panel tackles tough issues

by Kristin Miller
millerkr@mnstate.edu

Regardless of major, career path or industry, students at one point or another will face tough ethical choices in the workplace. A recent event aimed to help address some of these issues and provide students with some professional expertise on the subject as they prepare for their own careers.
This past Thursday, the College of Business and Innovation celebrated its third annual Ethics Day. As the part of the day’s events, a panel of medical and business professionals gathered in the CMU Ballroom to discuss some of the tough ethical choices they have had to make in the course of their careers.
Marsha Weber, dean of the college, prefaced the panel discussion and said professors had been spending the week discussing ethics with their students. The panel acted as a complement to those discussions.
“These experts really reinforce some of the things we talk about in our classes,” Weber said. “They face ethical dilemmas in their careers every day.”
The panelists’ topics were as varied as the backgrounds they each brought to the table.
To kick off the discussion, Dr. Anu Gaba, an oncologist and hematologist at Sanford Health, as well as an associate professor of Internal Medicine at the University of North Dakota, cited examples of ethical choices she has had to make with her patients. Gaba, who treats patients dealing with cancer, said discussing treatment options isn’t always easy.
“Our treatments help control the cancer, not make it go away completely,” she said, adding she often has to weigh quality of life issues, as well as the high costs associated with medical care when helping a patient decide which treatment option is right for them.
Kathy Cochran, who works with Intelligent InSites, a company which manages healthcare data on patients, assets and staff flow, said she also has to face tough ethical choices in the workplace.
“The grays take time,” she said of the complex world of ethics. Courage, tenacity, accountability and collaboration are all key factors in making ethically sound decisions, she said, adding that “just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean it’s not right.”
The panelists also stressed the importance of self-evaluation and honesty when it comes to behaving ethically in a professional setting.
“In hindsight, my behavior was not ethical,” said School of Business faculty member Atif Osmani about a choice he had to make while working in data management for a healthcare organization.
He said he had a conflict over implicit access to data as a part of the CEO’s office at that organization, and he could have been more honest with coworkers about obtaining data for analysis.
“If I had been more open with them … they would have had the option to help me or not to help me,” he said.
Osmani brought the lesson into a student-accessible context by adding “just because you see the answer key on the faculty’s table … doesn’t mean you have access to it.”
The fourth and final panelist, Rachael Boyer, vice president of operations at Essentia Health, echoed that sentiment.
“You will always have the opportunity to make the right decisions,” she said.
Boyer went on to stress the importance of taking responsibility when an error has been made, citing the “Sorry Works” policy they have implemented at Essentia.
“None of us like to have that occur,” she said. However, through a system of “non-punitive open discussion” they have been able to better resolve these issues.
While each of the panelists had a current or past connection to healthcare, Weber said the ethical situations they presented and lessons they shared can be applied to a wide range of careers and industries.
Ethics Day and the panel both served to reinforce for students the idea that during their future careers they will come up against some of the same tough choices.

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