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The Quest to live a values-driven life

by Mary Niehaus

No one experiences a life free of ethical or moral challenges. While some turn inward to reflect and seek perspective, others look to like-minded groups for support and encouragement. A few are inspired to step forward and be the ones who make a difference.

"Cincinnati Horizons" asked several University of Cincinnati alumni where their commitment to ideas and ideals has led them. Here are their stories.

Activist helps free Death Row innocents

Noreen McNulty, A&S '94
Administrator, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Chicago

Four men sentenced to Illinois' Death Row, their confessions forced by police beatings, are free today because of the work of a Chicago grassroots organization whose administrator is a UC alumna. Noreen McNulty will never forget the January day when the men were pardoned.

"We were in downtown Chicago to hear the governor's announcement," McNulty recalls. "Afterward, we drove down to Pontiac Correctional Center, where Aaron Patterson and Madison Hobley were being held. It was an incredible moment, watching both of them walk away from the prison. Just amazing."

A student activist at UC for groups such as "Students For Troops Out Now," the anthropology grad's interest in criminal justice issues grew when she moved to Chicago. After serving as a volunteer, she became the first paid administrator of that city's chapter of Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

Accepting a Ford Foundation "2004 Leadership for a Changing World  Award" is Noreen McNulty (right), A&S '94, administrator of Campaign  to End the Death Penalty, Chicago, with her CEDP leadership team.  At center is Susan Berresford, Ford Foundation president. Photo/Hazel Hankin, courtesy of Advocacy Institute

Accepting a 2004 Ford Foundation award is Noreen McNulty (right), A&S '94, administrator of Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Chicago, with her CEDP leadership team.

Even on a shoestring budget, CEDP's work proved effective. There were programs such as "Live From Death Row" where prisoners could call in to tell their stories to the public. Prisoners' families joined volunteers in demonstrations, including one at the Chicago Police Department headquarters.

"Having a child on Death Row can be a very isolating experience," McNulty concedes. "Many of the families feel a lot of shame and guilt. When I see those family members stand up and speak out, it really encourages me to continue."

Even though the Illinois governor declared a moratorium on executions and commuted more than 150 death sentences to life-without-parole, the death penalty still exists. McNulty's organization, however, now has a nice bit of extra help for their cause. The Ford Foundation presented the Chicago chapter a "Leadership for a Changing World Award," an honor given to those who tackle critical social issues. It includes $100,000 to advance CEDP's work, plus $15,000 for supporting activities.

"I was floored," the administrator admits. "We knew we were nominated, but I was still very surprised. We have hired another staff person, and we're planning a national speaking tour for 2006-07, which we hope will strengthen our organization's impact on criminal justice issues.

"When people come together and organize, they can make a difference. Definitely, we've seen that happen in Illinois."

Campaign to End the Death Penalty site

Dr. Mark Dine photo/Dottie Stover

Dr. Mark Dine. Photo/Dottie Stover

Pediatrician's work resolved ethical disputes

Mark Dine, A&S '47, MD '50
Bioethics committee pioneer
President, Pediatric Care, Inc.

In the early 20th century, sterilization of the mentally retarded was fairly common, but when University of Cincinnati alumnus Mark Dine found out in the 1970s that hysterectomies were still being performed on retarded children -- for no medical reason -- he was outraged.

"I founded a bioethics committee and made myself the chairman," he declares. "We were able to put a stop to that."

Dine, who taught pediatrics and worked in Cincinnati Children's Hospital clinics early in his career, was used to collaborating with peers. Completing a term as president of the hospital's gynecology guidelines group, he knew surgeons, obstetricians and other pediatricians at the hospital who would serve on a bioethics committee.

"We worked out what the medical criteria for this surgery should be," the doctor recalls. "It was quite controversial at the time. After that, physicians who applied to do a sterilization procedure at Children's Hospital had to come to our committee before they could be scheduled in the operating room."

In 1977, Dine was named to chair the Bioethics Committee for the entire UC Medical Center. From 1983-87 he headed the Children's Hospital Biomedical Ethics Committee.

Bioethics was a rather new field in the '70s, but articles were being published about concepts such as informed consent, autonomy and the allocation of scarce resources. "I had taken some courses, gone to meetings and done some reading about ethics, but I had had no formal training," he notes.

Bioethics committees were not expected to make medical decisions for cases under review; they attempted to clarify the ethical issues. "Where there were differences between what the physicians thought was best and what the parents thought was best, our job was to improve communication between the two," Dine says.

"We handled end-of-life issues like the Terri Schiavo case within the walls of the institution. We didn't have to go to court."

The alumnus recalls one conflict that was particularly difficult. The child's physicians wanted to continue therapy for him, while the parents did not. "It was very dramatic," Dine says. "I will always remember that case."

Pediatric Care Inc. Web site

Joy Skeel photo/Roland Skeel, MD '64

Joy Skeel. Photo/Roland Skeel, MD '64

Ethicist nurtures integrity of future physicians

Joy Skeel, Nur '61
Professor, Medical Ethics and Humanities;
director, Ethics Consultation Services
Medical University of Ohio at Toledo

A patient was refusing a blood transfusion. Alarmed that the woman's hemoglobin level had dropped to 4.5 -- far below the normal 12 to 14 -- the head of the hospital's department of medicine called Joy Skeel for an ethics consult.

"He wanted me to talk her into taking blood, which I was not about to do," the consultant says. "I did talk with her about her decision, asking if she realized the ramifications of her choice. It turned out that she did. She was a Jehovah's Witness and had brought along her own signed forms to put into the medical chart.

"It was 1983, my first consult. I'll never forget it."

Skeel's journey to becoming an ethics professor and consultant at the Medical University of Ohio was serendipitous. She had just earned her master's in divinity from Yale when husband Roland Skeel, MD '64, moved the family to Toledo where he would shape the medical oncology program.

The only hurdle in front of the UC alumna was a block of skeptical medical students. She was told that if she could win them over, the job was hers.

"There were some incredibly socially conscientious students at the college who had a high awareness of social ethics issues in the world, not just in health care," the ethicist says. "I began by meeting with them for informal brown-bag lunches. Still, the dean refused to hire me until the students themselves brought him a written proposal."

Joy Skeel, who had earned her degree in nursing at the University of Cincinnati, absorbed every philosophical and theological ethics course offered to her at Yale. Her understanding of medical ethics was enhanced not only by her years as a coronary care nurse, but also by weekly meetings with CCU staff at Yale's hospital. She talked with them about how they coped with patients' deaths and how they responded when patients asked about dying. When the staff began to look to her as a resource, "it was a wonderful, eye-opening experience."

The first class she taught at the Medical University of Ohio at Toledo was an elective. "I offered to do it in the evenings at my home, limited to 15 students," she remembers. "The dean laughed and said, 'Dream on. You won't get five.' Well, I carried 18 students, and it was really fun."

That course and others Skeel designed now constitute the bioethics curriculum at the medical college. One of the requirements is a monthly medical ethics conference where a student presents a 'patient' with difficult ethical issues, while peers observe and participate.

"Our program was the first to fully utilize 'standardized patients,' people trained to play the part, for example, of someone who must be told he will not be leaving the hospital alive," the UC alumna notes. "Especially for the medical student who sits in the interviewer's chair, it's a kind of 'baptism by fire,' but many of my former students tell me these experiences were incredibly helpful.

"If a student is going to stumble in how she tells a patient he is going to die, better that it be with a standardized patient than one with a terminal illness."

The University of Toledo Medical Center

Skeel's coauthored paper: Using Standardized Patients to Teach Clinical Ethics

Mike Seger photo courtesy of the Athenaeum of Ohio

Mike Seger photo courtesy of the Athenaeum of Ohio

Teacher energizes seminary's ethics courses

Rev. Michael Seger, A&S '72
Associate professor, Moral Theology and Ethics
The Athenaeum of Ohio/Mount St. Mary Seminary of the West

Even before he graduated from Cincinnati's Elder High School, Mike Seger knew he wanted to be a teacher. He also felt drawn to the camaraderie and commitment of Catholic religious life, but he had no way of knowing how much more would be expected of him.

As an undergraduate at the University of Cincinnati, Seger was just a "good ol' garden-variety college student," he says. "I always picked courses that looked attractive and worthwhile -- mostly English, some philosophy, music and music appreciation."

After receiving his degree, the UC alumnus decided to join the Christian Brothers, a Catholic teaching order whose mission he admired. "Their life really appealed to me," he says, "their focus on prayer, support for one another and their vision of what a Christian school should be."

In the beginning...

Little folks in their first confession rock on their hands, not really sure what all this is about. But I recall one who came in, looked me square in the eye and said with conviction,"I lie a lot."

"Well," I said,"what will happen if you keep lying?" "I'll become a liar," he responded. A virtue ethicist in the making! He understood intuitively that what one does shapes who one becomes.

-- Mike Seger, 2004 Leblond Lecture
Seger, who calls himself "a natural-born teacher," spent most of the next 10 years teaching English and religion at Cincinnati's LaSalle High School and at the Christian Brothers' high school in St. Louis. Then, something changed: He realized that he was being called to be a priest, to serve by celebrating Mass and administering sacraments.

After seminary studies and ordination, the young priest received an assignment to parish work, and he began to understand that his original call to teach and his call to the priesthood were not separate calls, but one. He was asked to become a professor in the Archdiocese's seminary and lay ministry program, teaching courses such as Modern Moral Problems, End-of-Life Care Decisions and Catholic Medical Ethics. To prepare, he studied at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, earning a doctorate and licentiate in sacred theology.

"I love the dynamism of the classroom," Seger admits, "and I feel very blessed that I'm able to serve in this particular field of moral theology. It's wonderful to encounter the seminarians' openness, their faith and trust. They come from a whole kaleidoscope of backgrounds; many are giving up six-figure jobs and a lot of security to do this."

Responsible for a full schedule of classes, the priest says that he may be the only able-bodied teacher within 50 miles certified to do this work. "I have a lot of job security," he laughs.

The Athenaeum's Web site

Karen Brauer photo/William Mueller

Karen Brauer. Photo/William Mueller

Pharmacist promotes freedom of conscience

Karen Brauer, Pharm '89
President, Pharmacists for Life International

Karen Brauer looked at the prescription in her hand and felt morally obligated to refuse to fill it. Although she tried to be non-confrontational, even offering to call another pharmacy, the customer complained. Karen was fired. "But I can sleep at night," she says without regrets.

Brauer's refusal to dispense the progestin-only "minipill" at a Cincinnati K-Mart pharmacy in '96 was not something done on the spur of the moment. The University of Cincinnati alumna had explained her opposition to certain birth control pills when she was hired. An arrangement had been made to have another staff member fill those prescriptions, but he was absent on the day in question.

"It's more commonly recognized, now, how the pill works: It stops implantation of a fertilized egg," the pharmacist explains. "In some pills, that's a side effect; in others, it's the major mechanism. I would not touch the pill where abortion is a significant mechanism.

"When I would talk to women who came in for the morning-after or minipill, and tell them how the pills work, they decided not to use them," she says. "I think women are purposely denied this information, especially when there are many other birth control methods available."

As a pharmacist, Brauer agrees that she must look to a patient's welfare first. "The big conflict is that some people don't recognize there is a second person in a pregnancy. I have to look out for both of them."

Calling her profession the "final checkpoint" for patient safety, she recommends that all of a person's prescriptions be with one pharmacy. This ensures automatic review of possible drug interaction and quickly provides hospitals with the patient's medication profile. Brauer currently works as a hospital pharmacist.

Considering the impact pharmacy has had on her life, it is interesting that the profession is actually Brauer's second career. Earlier, she had earned degrees in biology, chemistry and medicinal chemistry/pharmacognosy, and then taught pharmacy students at Purdue University. It was only after she came to UC's College of Medicine to do research that she decided to use her tuition benefits to earn a pharmacy degree.

As president of Pharmacists For Life International, the UC alumna fields frequent media requests and works to promote freedom of conscience for her peers, whether based on religious or ethical grounds.

Karen and KMart

Pharmacists For Life International Web site

Candace Kendle    photo courtesy of Kendle International

Candace Kendle photo courtesy of Kendle International

Quality people create 'significant' company

Candace Kendle, Pharm '70, PhD (Pharm) '72
Chairman/CEO, Kendle International
Member, UC Board of Trustees

Do good values lead to financial success? Candace Kendle, co-founder of one of the world's leading global clinical research organizations, contends that they do make a difference.

"Everyone wants a loyal staff, but it's more than that," observes the CEO who has made presentations on corporate ethics. "We're essentially a scientific personnel company, a service business. We promise our customers that our associates have a high level of scientific and clinical knowledge. People with those qualities are scarce, so it's very important that our associates feel committed to Kendle and to the customers we serve."

One of the ways the company supports commitment is by acknowledging the balance between personal life and work. The walls of Kendle's corporate headquarters display personalized professional photos of staff with their children, charity work, sports memorabilia, and so on -- daily reminders of what each individual holds dear.

The company also promotes what Kendle's chairman calls a "bring your friends and family to work" approach -- not just for special events, but every day. Kendle hires a large number of family and friends.

"Chris Bergen (her husband, partner and company president) and I have been in business for 24 years, and we came to the conclusion early on that it wasn't enough for a person to have talents and skills," she says. "I want to hire someone who shares our values, someone I trust and for whom I have a high regard.

"After all, wouldn't you do a better job for a person you care about? Interestingly enough, IBM started their business this way."

In offices on five continents in 15 countries, Kendle's associates seem to have a good sense of the world as family. After the tsunami of December '04, they asked the University of Cincinnati alumna's permission to help out in a variety of ways. The CEO was delighted to support their initiative.

"There are companies that are successful," Candace Kendle says; "that is, they bring a shareholder return -- and this is what business is about, after all. But I think that's different than being a 'significant' company. Kendle has significance because we feel a responsibility to all our stakeholders, whether they are associates, customers, shareholders or the communities in which we work."

Kendle is particularly pleased about a new master's program at UC's College of Pharmacy that offers specialization in both the scientific and regulatory aspects of drug development. One of only a few programs of this kind in the United States, it is an outgrowth of a personal gift from the alumna and her spouse.

UC master's degree program in drug development

Kendle International Web site

Hamilton County veteran upholds fair election system

Charles Wagner (right), DAAP '81, was among local officials   who welcomed Vice President Al Gore to Cincinnati in April   1999. Gore, who arrived aboard Air Force Two, came to visit Greater Cincinnati neighborhoods damaged by spring  tornadoes. Official White House photo, 19 April 99

Charles Wagner (right), DAAP '81, was among local officials who welcomed Vice President Al Gore to Cincinnati in April 1999. Official White House photo, 19 April 99

Charles Wagner, DAAP '81
System administrator, Hamilton County Board of Elections

It didn't take long for Charles Wagner to figure out that not every campaign treasurer or political action committee is eager to share its financial records with the public. It was his job -- and sworn duty -- to remind them.

"Campaign finance reporting can be a 'hot button' issue," the University of Cincinnati alumnus admits. "Sometimes we heard complaints that our reporting requirements violate the Constitution, or that contributions are a form of free speech and should not be regulated or tracked.

"Some viewed our application of the financial reporting law as a form of harassment, or jumped to the conclusion that our request for data was politically motivated. On the other hand, many believe that this reporting is necessary to ensure a government for the people, unencumbered by private interests."

For 15 years, Wagner made every effort to approach the campaign committees matter-of-factly, apply the law to the letter, and to be objective and nonpartisan. He spent many hours reviewing and checking the accuracy of campaign finance reports. When formal requests for corrections were ignored, he was obliged to send cases to the Ohio Elections Commission in Columbus, a body that has power to impose fines and penalties.

"The reputation of the Hamilton County Board of Elections is very important to me," the UC grad explains. "In my time in campaign finance, I dealt with literally every local candidate and political action committee in Hamilton County. While I haven't always been the most popular county employee -- a frustrated PAC treasurer once said he'd like to 'put me out of business' -- I hope that I established a reputation for fairness and honesty both for myself and the board."

Two people fill every position at the Hamilton County Board of Elections. Wagner happens to be a Democrat -- he worked for David Mann, former Cincinnati mayor and congressman, when he was a student at UC -- and he has always had a Republican counterpart at work. The practice seems to stem from a time when the election board's primary function was to count votes.

Now in his 21st year with the board, Wagner was promoted last year to the area of elections operations. While he used to build databases for campaign finance figures, he now keeps track of the names and addresses of Hamilton County's 500,000 registered voters. And he still has a Republican counterpart.

Hamilton County Ohio Board of Elections Web site