Aspen Ethical Leadership Program participants from Anschutz

The University of Colorado School of Medicine once had a lively presence in Aspen. Beginning in the 1970s, the school held academic conferences and programs for the best and the brightest medical professionals at the Given Institute in Aspen, a building owned and operated by CU. Unfortunately, the Given Institute was demolished in 2011, and CU’s connection to Aspen dissipated without it.

However, the CU Center for Bioethics and Humanities on the Anschutz Medical Campus is determined to revitalize CU’s relationship with Aspen.

“The long history of CU in Aspen is special,” said Matthew Wynia, MD, MPH, FACP, director of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities. “The loss of the Given Institute caused a serious void in the community, and we think it’s important to revive that special relationship.”

Wynia, with the help of Ira Bedzow, PhD, a senior scholar at the Aspen Center for Social Values, decided to create sustainable programming that could be held annually in Aspen.

And thus, the Aspen Ethical Leadership Program, or AELP, was born in 2016.

Discussion at AELP
Many discussions about health care and ethics took place at the Aspen Ethical Leadership Program. Seated at the far table in the black sports coat is Matthew Wynia, director of the CU Center for Bioethics and Humanities.

“We decided to implement a different kind of ethics programming than what had been traditionally held by CU in Aspen,” said Wynia. “Ira and I thought there would be a strong audience for ethical leadership training, especially if it could be more inclusive to other members of the health-care community, including students, administrators, health-care lawyers and other leaders.”

Meleah Himber, the community outreach coordinator for the Center for Bioethics and Humanities, also helped organize this year’s programming.

“People at the management level have a real opportunity to elevate their company’s values and ethics,” said Himber. “We hope the training will help with their future decisions in health-care settings.”

Back in Aspen

The second year of the AELP took place Sept. 11-13 and attracted about 50 participants from Aurora to Australia. It was held in downtown Aspen at the state-of-the-art Aspen Jewish Community Center.

AELP Discussion
A group of attendees at the Aspen Ethical Leadership Program engage in a discussion.

Alongside various highly esteemed health-care leaders, seven CU Anschutz students participated in three days of ethical discussions, plenary discussions and training.

“I feel like I’m better equipped to be a physician now,” said Meagan Criswell, MD/PhD candidate at CU School of Medicine. “I know that I will face these kinds of situations. I’m not sure I could have gained this information anywhere else. These training exercises and experiences will help me make more informed decisions for my future patients.”

Although academics were the focus, the beauty of Aspen was not lost on the attendees. Picturesque mountains surround the Aspen Jewish Community Center, and many participants opted to spend time outside in the pleasant 70-degree weather during the conference’s off hours. A few  even hiked through Maroon Bells, a stunning area known for its colorful scenery.

“Aspen wasn’t what I thought it would be,” said Mary Accomando, third-year PharmD candidate at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. “It is much more quaint and homey than I imagined. I’m really thankful this program brought me here.”

Looking Forward

Wynia, Bedzow, Himber and the entire Center for Bioethics and Humanities are enthusiastic about the program’s direction, and hope to increase enrollment next year.

“This is just the beginning,” said Bedzow.  “Not only do we hope that the attendees can use the training and skills learned at this conference, but we hope to be able to provide more future programming. We are truly glad to work with CU Anschutz Center for Bioethics and Humanities to bring this great opportunity to Aspen.”

Photo at top: CU Anschutz students who participated in the Aspen Ethical Leadership Program are: back row, from left: Jonathan Lowe, Blair Ilsley, Martha Meyer and Halea Meese; and front row, from left: Mary Accomando, Meagan Chriswell and Margaret Dinkel.