Program highlights include a panel on conflicts of interest in responses to COVID-19, featuring Deborah Birx, MD, former White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator, and Rick Bright, PhD, former BARDA Director turned whistleblower. Other speakers include Howard Bauchner, MD, Editor in Chief of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA); Otis Brawley, MD, Professor of Oncology, Johns Hopkins University and former head of the American Cancer Society; Arthur Caplan, PhD, Professor of Bioethics, NYU Grossman School of Medicine; and James Sheehan, JD, of the New York State Office of the Attorney General. 

Newswise — New York, NY – March 8, 2021 – Our healthcare ecosystem is widespread with rewards for bias and opportunities for conflicts of interest. There are overt and hidden conflicts, including those driven by monetary reward, political and ideological pressures, and ambition. Importantly, not all conflicts are intentional; they can be a product of unconscious bias or fault lines in the system. On March 10 -11, the New York Academy of Sciences and NYU Grossman School of Medicine will host a virtual bioethics colloquium—Conflicts of Interest in Healthcare: Opportunities for Self-Reflection and Action—to  explore ways to identify bias and mitigate conflicts of interest to protect individuals and institutions, and to maintain the integrity of medicine and science. 

“On a global scale, the healthcare system is rife with rewards for bias, and this can easily affect scientists and physicians, and their employers, who must be held accountable to ensure that quality research and good patient care remain front-and-center,” said Arthur Caplan, PhD, Professor at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and founding head of the Division of Medical Ethics in the Department of Population Health. “There are a number of things we can all do to manage conflict of interest, including putting transparency first, strengthening peer review, being cognizant about the impact of small favors and incentives as well as non-monetary forces that can create conflicts of interest, and educating the medical and scientific communities to be better communicators so they can explain to the general public how science works.” 

Experts will drill down to the level of individuals, identifying pressure points and recommending ways that scientists, clinicians, pharmaceutical company leaders, and other healthcare industry professionals can navigate bias and conflicts of interest to avoid decisions that put their work and their institutions at risk. 

Panelists will also discuss conflicts of interest in sponsored research and the use of advisory panels. They will explore how academia and non-profit institutions can form partnerships with donors and industry, and how they can avoid conflicts in setting up for-profit companies. There will also be discussion of conflicts in media coverage of the pandemic, misinformation, and political pressures placed on scientists and government agency officials.     

“The COVID-19 pandemic has focused a great deal of public attention on questions concerning conflicts of interest in our healthcare system,” remarked Nicholas Dirks, PhD, President and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences. “These questions have been heightened by the recent politicization of virtually everything connected to the pandemic, as well as by the public-private partnerships that have characterized vaccine and other related drug development. Scientists, physicians, regulators, public health officials, and leaders in government and industry all have special obligations to carry out their work according to the most stringent ethical and legal standards.  In exploring how individuals and institutions navigate potential conflicts of interest—real and perceived—this symposium will shed important light on the processes upon which we rely to protect our health and safety, with the aim of advancing public trust in the work of science and scientists.” 

The two-day symposium will explore:  

  • Conflicts in public-private partnerships – can they ethically exist?
  • Conflicts in biomedical research
  • Conflicts in clinical care
  • Conflicts in nutrition science
  • Non-monetary and unconscious influences
  • Strengthening peer review
  • Conflicts of interest in academic and non-profit institutions
  • Conflicts of interest, bias, political influence, and mistrust of science in the responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

This colloquium is supported by funding from Johnson & Johnson.

To view a schedule and a complete list of participants, and to register, visit:



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