Byrnes said the pandemic has spurred an increase in interest in
GVSU's health care ethics minor. One person who as a philosophy
student had an interest in health ethics before the pandemic started,
then finished studies as it was taking hold, is now working as a
clinical ethicist and peer review specialist for the Sparrow Health System.
Julia Mariotti, '20, said the work as a Grand Valley student provided
a base for learning how to communicate effectively and with empathy,
keeping in mind that ethicists are working with people at their worst
moments. Mariotti said work during the pandemic involved difficult
conversations with patients and family members about treatments and
sometimes accepting what interventions could be offered.
"Training during the pandemic gave me confidence in my skills
and my abilities and it gave me confidence in my ability to explain
why clinical ethics is so relevant," Mariotti said. "I will
likely not encounter anything this difficult throughout the rest of
the career, so I appreciate the opportunity to use the knowledge I
have found and to make some positive changes in a post-pandemic world."
Also looking ahead with the aid of insight from Byrnes is the Kent
County Health Department. Karla Black, deputy administrative health
officer, said Byrnes was a valuable colleague as the department
navigated pandemic-related situations.
Now, department officials are working with Byrnes to develop a
comprehensive ethics process that includes the optimal composition of
an ethics committee and what factors would send an issue to that
committee. Byrnes is providing counsel, as well as research and data,
to support the process.
"It's been really great to have him help us look at these
problems through a whole different lens," Black said. "We're
all trying to help the public but there is this push and pull of
personal freedoms and potentially the law, but also how to distribute
resources in a way that's ethical. There are so many pieces and parts
of ethics that we live in every day."