Jodi Halpern

MD, PhD
Chancellor’s Chair, Professor of Bioethics, UC Berkeley
Co-founder Berkeley Group on Ethics and Regulation of Innovative Technology

Researcher, Speaker and Consultant in Empathy, Ethics and Applied Psychiatry

COVID-19 :

  • Lead, Reslience and Mental Health Initiative, UC Berkeley School of Public Health
  • Member, Scientific Advisory Board, Innovative Genomics Institute (Jennifer Doudna)

While it is widely recognized that tech and biotech demand the development of living ethical norms, few bring decades of ground-breaking scholarship in philosophy, psychiatry and decision science to the table.

A leading thinker in bioethics, Jodi Halpern has systematically shown that ethical guidelines are only as influential as the culture they live in—and she has dissected the emotional motivation, norms and beliefs that sustain or destroy ethical culture. Now she is bringing that depth to current challenges in AI and gene editing.

Her current project “Engineering Empathy” examines how applications in AI may erode autonomy (through manipulation) and change the meaning of “personal” relationships . Case studies include the use of robotics (sequential machine learning) for psychotherapy and to care for children and elders , sentiment analysis to “increase human happiness” at work, and VR/AR to encourage philanthropy. This research has inspired her to work internationally to seek guardrails and to provide companies, NGO’s and governments deep insights into the humane uses of technology.

In biotechnology, one of Jodi’s research projects centers on the translation of somatic cell gene editing from bench to bedside. With her research group she has interviewed forty leading gene editing scientists about how they want their findings to be used, what motivates them, and the nature of their ethical thinking. The goal is to identify critical gaps in how bench scientists newly involved in translation understand research with human subjects, in order to improve research standards and the professional education of basic scientists going forward. To support these aims, she co-founded and co-leads the https://innovativegenomics.org/bergit/.

Jodi’s foundational research on clinical empathy was pivotal in making medical care more patient-centered and inspired a wave of research on patient-doctor relationships—her book From Detached Concern to Clinical Empathy was called “seminal” by JAMA. Recent collaborations with neuroscientists have led her to argue for another paradigm shift for empathy research, away from treating empathy as an individual capacity (akin to IQ). Instead she shows how empathy must be studied interpersonally, dynamically and contextually as it is truly situationally shaped. Jodi also studies the role of empathic communication in the wake of conflict and trauma, ranging from social reconciliation in Rwanda and the countries of the former Yugoslavia to helping wounded soldiers returning from war reintegrate into civilian societies.

Jodi became fascinated with how diffiicult it can be for stoic individuals who provide empathy for others to internalize empathy, which led her to ten years of interviews and the book Remaking the Self in the Wake of Illness, which will be available Winter 2021. She examines how people who need to accept loss and interdependency learn to do so, and how this helps them remake rich lives in the wake of illness.

Jodi is a full time professor at Berkeley who is dedicated to reaching first generation college students like herself. She was fortunate to receive the first NIH Medical Scientist Training Program position to pursue an MD with a PhD in the humanities, She won Yale University’s award for best PhD of significance to humanity across all the disciplines as well as Yale Medical School’s thesis prize. She completed a medical Internship at UCLA-Wadsworth Veterans Administration Medical Center in Los Angeles and a Psychiatry Residency at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, followed by a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar Fellowship. As a faculty member she has received fellowship years from Princeton’s Center for Human Values, the Greenwall Faculty Scholars Program and the Townsend Humanities Center at UC Berkeley, She was awarded a Chancellor’s Chair at UC Berkeley in 2019.

Jodi Halpern | 2121 Berkeley Way #5124, Berkeley CA 94720 | jhalpern@berkeley.edu