Joel Frader, MD, professor in pediatrics and medical humanities and bioethics, is being honored by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) with the 2012 William G. Bartholome Award for Ethical Excellence.
The award, which recognizes an individual or group for significantly affecting public discussion of ethical issues in pediatric medicine, will be presented to Frader at the annual AAP meeting, held this year from October 20 to October 23 in New Orleans.
Frader’s interest in medical ethics was sparked nearly 40 years ago while an undergraduate working part-time as an orderly at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center.
Struck by disparities in the way staff treated various patients, Frader furthered his interest while attending Tufts University School of Medicine. It was there that he began to pay particularly close attention to what he considered a lack of open communication with dying patients.
“As a resident in pediatrics my interests broadened to include issues having to do with the care of children with handicapping conditions,” Frader said. “I did a fellowship as a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar studying medical sociology and medical ethics and have worked in the field ever since.”
Today, Frader’s research interests include end-of-life care for children, especially in intensive care settings; innovation and research in pediatrics, particularly as they pertain to surgery and early-phase clinical trials; bioethical aspects of transplantation, especially regarding living donors; children with disorders of sex development and gender identification nonconformity; and allocation of health care resources to services for children.
“When I started in medical ethics, few clinicians had the opportunity to work in the field and many academic medical centers, professional organizations, and some in the public viewed the pursuit with skepticism,” said Frader, who has been at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine for 15 years. “Now, the National Institutes of Health supports research in this area and major foundations have sponsored programs with a primary focus on medical ethics.”
Frader is the division head of academic general pediatrics and primary care at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and consults regularly on questions regarding life support for patients there. He has written extensively about the ethical dimension of withdrawing/withholding life-sustaining treatment.
He served on the Committee on Bioethics of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which he chaired for four years, and on the Committee on Ethics of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. He was elected to two terms on the board, including one as president, of the Society for Health and Human Values and has served on various federal study sections, data and safety monitoring committees, and advisory panels. He has been elected a fellow of the Hastings Center, and is a member of the American Pediatric Society.