Ethics in Undergraduate Medical Education

Meet the ethical challenges facing health care providers today

Dalhousie Medical School's undergraduate medical education (UGME) program is an integrated, case-based learning curriculum. Ethics is tightly integrated into the Professional Competencies unit in the pre-clinical years and in the PIER (Position – Integration – Evaluation – Research/Review) program during clerkship.

Ethics in the Professional Competencies unit

The Professional Competencies unit is an innovative, two-year course in the pre-clerkship years that gives students the foundation they need to meet the challenges facing health care providers today.

Sixty-four cases across the two-year course focus on the integrated clinical application of core concepts in population health, ethics, law and evidence-based and patient-centred clinical practice. Topics include:

  • end-of-life care planning 
  • addictions medicine (including responsible prescribing and opioids for chronic pain)
  • chronic care
  • patient safety 
  • conflict of interest and industry relations 
  • cultural competency 
  • Aboriginal health
  • occupational health 
  • family and intimate partner violence
  • collaboration with and support for patient groups and family caregivers 
  • critical thinking and clinical reasoning
  • screening programs and risk communication
  • genetic testing

Students have the opportunity to practice and demonstrate their real-world approach to complex issues in innovative Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCE) stations.

The course meets weekly throughout the first two years of medical school, with whole-group sessions followed by tutorial groups, facilitated by pairs of physicians and their collaborators (academic and clinical) in health care.

Dr. Benjamin Capps is currently the unit head of the Professional Competencies unit in Med 1, and all faculty in the department participate in the unit, lecturing, collaborating on case-writing and tutoring in Med 1 and Med 2.

Contact Dr. Capps for further information on the undergraduate Professional Compentencies unit.

Ethics in clerkship

Ethics is integrated into the academic half-days of several clerkship rotations (in the form of traditional small-group, case-based discussion) and forms an integral part of the ICE (Integrated Case Experience) cases in PIER sessions.

Ethics faculty are available to consult with students completing their student-led clinical case reviews. Contact the specific faculty member who you believe may be appropriate to your case, or contact Dr. Lynette Reid at to arrange for support.


Medical students at Dalhousie may complete their first, second, or fourth-year electives in the area of bioethics, either as a single area of concentration or in collaboration with clinical or basic science research placements. Projects may be literature-based, developing research and reasoning skills, or they may involve survey or qualitative research. Students may focus on clinical decision-making or on policy questions.

Contact the specific faculty member with whom you would like to work, or Dr. Lynette Reid at to arrange an elective.

Research in Medicine program

Students can opt to do their Research in Medicine project with bioethics faculty, or with a bioethics component to their project.

Projects are largely literature-based, enabling students to develop substantial competency in ethical theories and their application to real-world problems; they may involve survey or qualitative research. Students may focus on clinical decision-making, or on policy questions that integrate the application of ethical theories with clinical and health services research.

Contact the specific faculty member with whom you would like to work in order to arrange a RIM project related to bioethics.

Student initiatives

Department members are always happy to hear from students about their self-organized interest groups, and have contributed ethics perspectives to student groups in areas such as global health, Aboriginal health, physician industry relations and assisted dying.

Contact the specific faculty member from whom you would like assistance, or Dr. Lynette Reid at