Physician and ethicist Andrea Vicini, S.J., has been named professor of theology in the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences and the Michael P. Walsh, S.J., Professor of Bioethics at Boston College.
Fr. Vicini, who begins his Theology Department appointment Sept. 1, succeeds inaugural Walsh Professor John Paris, S.J., who served from 1990 until his retirement in 2017. Funded through support by Boston College alumni medical and dental professionals, the Walsh Chair is named for Michael P. Walsh, S.J., who served as University president from 1958 to 1968.
Fr. Vicini’s research interests include fundamental moral theology, theological bioethics, global public health, biotechnologies, reproductive technologies, end-of-life issues, medical ethics, genetics, and environmental issues. He is author of the book Human Genetics and the Common Good and co-editor of Just Sustainability: Technology, Ecology, and Resource Extraction. He has held teaching posts in Italy, Albania, Mexico, Chad, and France.
“I am delighted and very grateful to be the new Walsh Professor of Bioethics,” said Fr. Vicini, who has taught at the STM since 2011 and will retain a courtesy appointment as an affiliate faculty member on its ecclesiastical faculty.
“Bioethical challenges are complex and increasing, and require interdisciplinary expertise. Since it was instituted, the Walsh Chair has shown how theological discourse enriches the field of bioethics. Theological bioethics engages scientific discourses, philosophical reflections, policymaking, law, and the experience of many people dealing with bioethical matters. In addressing each bioethical issue, the overall goal is to promote the common good of all people–with a particular attention given to those who are more vulnerable—and of the whole planet.”
Born in Italy, Fr. Vicini earned his medical degree and a specialization in pediatrics from the University of Bologna. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1987 and was ordained a priest in 1996. He earned a doctorate in theological ethics from BC in 2000.
“Fr. Vicini’s dual expertise as a theologian and physician and his capacity to integrate science and theological ethics make him an ideal choice to service as the Walsh Chair in Bioethics,” said Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences Dean Gregory Kalscheur, S.J., in announcing the appointment. “His ability to work with doctoral students in the Theology Department, graduate students in the STM, and undergraduates interested in the Global Public Health and the Common Good program make him a unique faculty resource at BC. He will be a tremendous contributor not only to the Theology Department, but to the Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society as well.”
Fr. Vicini notes that theological bioethics has a very broad agenda that continues to expand. Topics include the beginning of human life (reproductive technologies, prenatal diagnosis, oncofertility, and abortion); biomedical research (experimentation, transplantation, and stem cell research); and the end of human life (euthanasia, palliative care, and the vegetative state), as well as global issues (global public health, pandemics, sustainability, and trafficking) and bioethical concerns raised by developing biotechnologies (genetics, neuroscience, nanotechnology, cybertechnology, robotics, artificial intelligence, transhumanism, and astrobiology).
Fr. Vicini emphasized that the Walsh Chair will continue to foster opportunities of engagement, collaboration, synergy, and research with colleagues across campus working on contemporary, complex ethical problems and enduring questions in health, biotechnologies, the environment, and society.
Fr. Vicini and Philip Landrigan, M.D., director of the Global Public Health and the Common Good program and director of the Global Observatory on Pollution and Health, are co-organizing an international conference at BC on Sept. 16 on “Ethical Challenges in Global Public Health: Climate Change, Pollution and the Health of the Poor.” The event will bring together scholars in ethics, law, public policy, economics, and global public health to examine contemporary ethical challenges in the field of global public health, with a particular focus on pollution and climate change.
“The conference will fill an important gap in the debates and literature on global public health,” said Fr. Vicini. “Despite the clear connections between global public health and social justice, there has been surprisingly little scholarly exploration of the ethical challenges confronting global public health. I anticipate that this conference will substantially advance the emerging field of global public health ethics, which I consider integral to the agenda of theological bioethics.”
The conference coincides with the launch of the new undergraduate minor in Global Public Health and the Common Good, and BC undergraduates, as well as graduate students, have been invited to submit posters that will be on display throughout the conference.
Beyond BC, Fr. Vicini also serves as one of the co-chairs of Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church, an organization of thousands of moral theologians from more than 70 countries, who network and gather regularly to exchange ideas and to address ethical issues.
Kathleen Sullivan | University Communications | July 2019