The Honzel Fellowship in Health Care Ethics is awarded to an outstanding (rising) senior in the Health Care Ethics Internship, with a passion for ethics as it relates to health care. The Fellow serves as a peer mentor to students in the Health Care Ethics Internship and develops an ethics project with particular relevance to students and alumni.
Alex Quan, 2020-21 Honzel Fellow
Alex is a Santa Clara University senior majoring in neuroscience and minoring in art history, philosophy, and biology. Though his studies seem disparate, he found that medicine perfectly combines his interests in both science and the humanities through the field of medical ethics. The Healthcare Ethics Internship provided a valuable glimpse into the world of medicine not only from the physician’s perspective, but also as experienced by patients and their families. “It’s an art that simultaneously requires an understanding of the lives and desires of patients, as well as a strong grasp of scientific concepts and the ability to communicate them in everyday language,” he writes.
“I think in fields like philosophy and history it’s easy to lose sight of their practical application,” Alex writes. “When thinking about questions like what it means to be normal, you could write whole papers arguing about what ‘normal’ is and how to define it. But at the end of the day, your view could inform whether someone gets diagnosed with a disorder or not—or whether someone gets a medication or not.”
The Center’s Healthcare Ethics Internship allowed Alex to explore the day-to-day application of ethics in various clinical settings including internal medicine, wound care, and intensive care. “I love exploring the critical reasoning of philosophy and trends of history to see how they influence our current perceptions and practices within medicine, even though most of the time, their influence is almost invisible despite how strongly they influence our decisions and patients’ lives. I want to apply my studies in the humanities to consciously inform my own practices and make a tangible difference in the lives of my own patients someday.”
Observing these clinics and even sitting in on a hospital ethics board meeting at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Santa Clara, Alex gained unique insight into how the medical system prepares for large-scale disasters and strains on resources. His current project as the Honzel Fellow investigates the ethics of short-term allocation strategies for medical resources during COVID-19 and aims to apply them to future long-term stresses on healthcare systems, such as during population shifts due to climate change.
Alex is currently set to attend Harvard in Fall 2021 to obtain a Master’s degree in bioethics and hopes to extend his Honzel project through his Master’s thesis. His experience as a healthcare ethics intern and as an SCU EMT have reinforced his passion for learning and practicing medicine; he plans to apply for medical school in the near future and continue to study and apply healthcare ethics throughout his medical career.
In his free time, Alex enjoys hiking, playing saxophone, improving his skills in mahjong, and learning yoyo tricks. An avid home cook, he often experiments with new recipes when he has a free evening (to mixed results).