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Message from the Director: Celebrating our 25-year milestone

This year, we celebrate the JCB’s 25th anniversary. It has been a wonderful journey of discovery and impact in bioethics locally and globally.

Where did we start?

The University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics (JCB) was created in 1995 by the
University of Toronto, Sunnybrook Hospital, Mount Sinai Hospital, the Hospital for Sick Children, and Toronto General Hospital. This built upon the U of T Centre for Bioethics, which had been founded in 1989 by Dr. Fred Lowy, then Dean of Medicine, in collaboration with the Faculty of Nursing, Faculty of Arts and Science, and Faculty of Law. The JCB marked a significant departure from traditional models of bioethics centres based either in universities or in healthcare institutions. By envisioning a bioethics centre as an academic partnership of the university and the healthcare sector, it became possible to link theory to practice and practice to theory in a way that could both advance bioethics thinking and improve bioethics practice in healthcare. In 2002, the JCB became the first World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre (CC) for Bioethics and is now part of the Global Network of WHO CCs in Bioethics , which has grown to 12 bioethics centres on 5 continents. In July 2015, after 15 years in the Faculty of Medicine, the JCB became an inaugural academic unit of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. This new academic home has opened up many vistas of possibility for the JCB in public, population health, and health system ethics.

Where are we now?

Today JCB-affiliated faculty members have academic appointments in over 15 academic units at the University of Toronto. Over 400 students and fellows have graduated from the Collaborative Specialization in Bioethics, Master of Health Science in Bioethics, and Fellowship in Clinical and Organizational Ethics. Our graduates are contributing to bioethics scholarship and building bioethics programs locally, nationally, and internationally. The JCB is home to the largest community of practice of practicing healthcare ethicists in Canada. Collectively, our faculty members, students and graduates are contributing to policy and practice locally and globally across a wide range of bioethics issues – including public health emergencies, priority setting of health resources, artificial intelligence, research governance, and medical assistance in dying, to name a few – that reflect the full continuum of bioethics challenges in clinical care, organizational and health system decision-making, global and public health, and research. We continue to challenge ourselves to see what’s around the corner. Our Ethics and AI for Good Health program and our partnership in the new Institute for Pandemics in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health are opening new avenues for bioethics discovery and impact.

Where are we going?

Bioethics is perhaps more relevant now than it was 25 years ago with new health challenges facing all of us on a global scale – from pandemics to climate change to emerging AI and digital technology and a resounding call for social justice.  At the JCB, we find ourselves looking back over 25 years to celebrate our community, our accomplishments, and our shared purpose. And also looking forward to the next 25 years imagining what these years may hold and how we may hold ourselves true to our continuing commitment to contribute toward positive change for health through bioethics both today and in the future.

– Jennifer Gibson, JCB Director

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