Advancing the Science

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July 30, 2019

New Ph.D. students pledge to uphold biomedical ethics in new scientist’s oath

By Advancing the Science contributor
Karen Dsouza, left, and Raini Heyblom pledge to “perform my professional activities with the highest rigor” as part of the new Scientist’s Oath at Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Both are first-year students pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical science.

By Jon Holten

Just as aspiring physicians pledge to uphold medical ethics in the Hippocratic Oath, incoming Ph.D. students at Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences for the first time recently pledged to uphold biomedical ethics.

As part of orientation, 52 students pursuing a doctoral degree in biomedical science started their research training by committing to the school’s new Scientist’s Oath, a pledge to:

  1. Conduct myself at all times with personal integrity
  2. Perform my professional activities with the highest rigor
  3. Work for the advancement of all humanity

In one of his first actions after becoming dean of the graduate school in May, Stephen Ekker, Ph.D., decided to incorporate the Scientist’s Oath into Ph.D. training. He and Bruce Horazdovsky, Ph.D., the school’s assistant dean, wrote the 44-word pledge to emphasize the standards that Mayo Clinic expects students to meet during their training and as future research scientists.

“I thought we needed to begin a new tradition to establish our expectations and impress upon incoming Ph.D. candidates that they must meet certain ethical responsibilities when they decide to become scientists,” Dr. Ekker says.  

Dr. Ekker says he wanted to reinforce the vital nature of integrity in response to surveys indicating a decline in the public’s trust of scientists and in segments of the population that refuse to believe evidence-based research.

The students received a frameable certificate of the oath signed by Dr. Ekker. They also received a lapel pin designed to resemble a strand of DNA bearing the words Integrity, Rigor and For All.

Mayo’s graduate school is one of the few in the nation to adopt an oath for doctoral candidates. Boston University School of Medicine introduced an oath during the Ph.D. graduation ceremony in 2012. Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 2014 added an oath to its coating ceremony for Ph.D. candidates who pass written and oral qualifying exams, typically as second-year students.


The Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science includes five schools:

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Tags: biomedical ethics, biomedical research, Bruce Horazdovsky, Education, Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, medical research education, News, research education, Stephen Ekker

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