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Bringing focus to research ethics for two decades

Marilyn Coors, PhD

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Written by Wendy Meyer on March 14, 2022

When Marilyn Coors, PhD, took a job as an assistant professor in the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, she had a vision. She wanted the center to become an integral part of the operation of science, research and teaching on the state’s top medical campus. Today, more than 21 years later, it is clear her vision has been realized.

Marilyn Coors
Marilyn Coors, PHD

“Dr. Coors is the longest-serving faculty member in our center, and she has been a profound influence on the growth and direction of the center,” says Matthew Wynia, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities. “Her work in research ethics—including putting together the Annual Research Ethics Conference and running the research ethics consultation team—stands out.”

During her tenure, Coors taught and mentored students in ethics. She says she particularly enjoyed teaching Ethics in the Health Professions, which was offered for more than 15 years. “[The course] had all the students from the five schools and colleges on campus. We put them all together … so they learned as much about the other professions as they did about ethics,” Coors says. She notes the course was a “big accomplishment” for the center but also a personal accomplishment.

Other courses she taught included Research Ethics in psychiatry (as part of the residency training program) and the Responsible Conduct of Research in a variety of departments. Since 2010, Coors has served as director of research ethics in the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI). In this role she organized CCTSI’s Annual Research Ethics Conference, participated in the Institute’s Executive Committee and led research ethics consultations for investigators conducting clinical research with human participants.

In the research ethics consult service, sponsored by CCTSI, a committee of faculty experts in bioethics addresses questions that investigators are grappling with related to their research. “We have published a number of those cases for the benefit of others facing similar issues,” Coors says.

“Dr. Coors has used her extensive knowledge in bioethics and humanities to become a leader in the study of ethical issues related to human and genomics research, to educate our campus and beyond through the annual research ethics conference and to bring to light difficult ethical questions that those of us who perform human research must address,” says CCTSI Director Ronald Sokol, MD.

Wynia adds, “Her work in ethics, genetics and biobanking issues; ethics and religion; and more recently, the ethics of stakeholder engagement have all been impressive.”

“I am going to miss the collaboration with my colleagues and the inspiration of the students,” Coors says. Recently she has been mentoring a group of medical students studying levels of anxiety, depression and substance consumption during the pandemic. “The article has been published,” she says. “I am really proud of them!”

In her retirement she intends to pursue new endeavors and increase time spent with family and friends; she also plans to travel. However, she says, “The intellectual stimulation of bioethics and the CCTSI have been fabulous. I have loved it.”

“Marilyn’s grace and collaborative spirit have inspired many others to not shy away from critically examining our ethical foundations and address our past mistakes to prevent them in the future,” Sokol says. “We wish Marilyn the best in the next phase of her life and will miss her dearly.”

Topics: Research, Kudos