Jason Karlawish, MD, Chair
Faculty Scholars Program Committee

Jason Karlawish, MD, Chair

  • Professor of Medicine, Medical Ethics and Health Policy, and Neurology
  • University of Pennsylvania

Jason Karlawish is a Professor of Medicine, Medical Ethics and Health Policy, and Neurology at Penn and cares for patients at the Penn Memory Center (www.pennmemorycenter.org), which he co-directs. His research focuses on issues at the intersections of bioethics, aging, and the neurosciences. He leads the Penn Program for Precision Medicine for the Brain (P3MB). P3MB developed standards for Alzheimer’s disease biomarker disclosure and investigates the clinical impacts of this knowledge on persons and their families. He has investigated the development and translation of Alzheimer’s disease treatments and biomarker-based diagnostics, informed consent, quality of life, research and treatment decision making, and voting by persons with cognitive impairment and residents of long term care facilities. His essays on aging, ethics and Alzheimer’s disease have appeared in Forbes.com, KevinMD, the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and STAT news. He is the author of Open Wound: The Tragic Obsession of Dr. William Beaumont, a novel based on true events along the 19th century American frontier. He is currently writing a book explaining how Alzheimer’s disease became a crisis and the steps needed to address it. He is a member of the board of directors of The Greenwall Foundation and chairs the Program Committee for the Greenwall Faculty Scholars in Bioethics.

For more information, visit: https://pennmemorycenter.org/who-we-are/staff/jason-karlawish-md/

Committee Member Q & A

We asked each Committee Member four questions to gain insight into who they are and what they value in bioethics scholarship and the Faculty Scholars Program.

What professional activity or accomplishment are you most proud of?

Two to three times a week, I receive an email from a busy clinician – a hospital discharge planner, psychologist, physician, an adult protective service investigator – asking for a copy of the Assessment of Capacity for Everyday Decision-making (ACED), an instrument I developed to assist in deciding whether a cognitively impaired older adult is able to decide how best to manage a functional problem. There are also requests for talks and trainings on capacity assessment. My colleagues and I developed the ACED, beginning with a conceptual model that guided the development of our validated instrument. I’m thrilled at how this research engages professionals working with older adults suffering from late life cognitive impairment. This and other projects – the voting rights of nursing home residents, disclosing genes and biomarkers in Alzheimer’s prevention trials – are examples of moving from the normative to the practical and, as needed along the way, bringing to the effort, social science methods.

In your work, how have you engaged with people who face bioethics dilemmas in their professional activities or personal lives?

In my younger and wilder days, I marched in to the room knowing what was good to be done, and then I decided to change it up. I started listening and looking for the story. I strive to get inside of their world, feel it and then say back what I learn, along with some ideas. And then I listen some more. And so on until we sort of arrive at what’s the problem and a plan.

Who has been affected by your work in bioethics

Out of my work as a writer, physician and a researcher, I hope I’ve helped some older adults and their families live with and make sense of aging and disease, especially as aging and disease chip away at autonomy, a hard won and late arrival in the history our values.

What do you view as the greatest strength of the Greenwall Faculty Scholars Program?

We don’t simply build careers as change lives, making a cadre of collegial and collaborative risk takers, who are willing to engage, listen and learn.