The Philosophy of Medicine Working Group aims to build connections and collaborations between Toronto-area graduate students, professors, researchers, and post-graduates working in the philosophy of medicine. Formerly the Philosophy of Medicine Network, the group has been meeting monthly since 2017 to discuss members’ work and relevant work in the field. A partially complete list of our past readings can be viewed here. Since March 2020, the Working Group has continued to meet virtually and welcomes anyone interested in participating in our ongoing collaborations. The Working Group is supported by both the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health and the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. All inquiries should be directed to Michael Cournoyea, the current Chair, at michael.cournoyea[at]utoronto.ca.
Brian Baigrie is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (IHPST), University of Toronto. Brian is cross-appointed to IHPME (The Institute for Health Policy Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto). Brian’s early work focused on early modern natural philosophy, esp. Isaac Newton’s use of Kepler’s laws of motion as evidence for the university of gravitational attraction. These days, Brian is working on issues in philosophy of medicine. His ongoing project is “A ‘Varieties of Evidence’ Theory of Biomedical Evidence.”
Suze Berkhout, MD, PhD
I’m a clinician-investigator practicing in psychiatry at the University Health Network in Toronto, and an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. I carry out inpatient psychiatric care in my clinical work, and have research projects that cover a range of areas/populations, including treatment resistance in mental health, how curative imaginaries operate in transplant medicine, and issues of embodiment and subjective/objective bifurcations that operate within placebo/nocebo studies. In each of these areas I explore how cultural and social issues shape medical knowledge and the ways in which individuals navigate health care systems, and how diagnostic practices and interventions shape identity and lived experience.
Andrew Baines MD, PhD, FRCPC.
Professionally I was responsible for the diagnostic biochemistry Labs at The Toronto Hospital (aka TGH, TWH and Doctor’s Hospital) and chair of the Dept. of Clinical Biochemistry (now part of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology). As a clinician I saw patients with kidney disease and hypertension in the out-patient clinics at TWH, TGH and Mt Sinai Hospitals. My laboratory-based research related primarily to kidney function and disease (79 peer-reviewed papers) and teaching dealt with biochemical-diagnosis of human disease and models of disease. When retirement finished my medical educational career as Vice-Dean Education in the Faculty of Medicine I moved in 2005 to teaching at Victoria College to inaugurate the Stowe-Gullen stream of the VIC One program. My current interest and teaching have evolved from models of disease to models of evil.
Benjamin Chin-Yee is a Clinical Fellow in the Division of Hematology at Western University, Canada. He completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of Toronto, where he also obtained his MD and MA in the history and philosophy of science. Prior to this, he studied biology at McGill University and history and philosophy of science at Cambridge University. His research spans a range of disciplines, from bioethics to the history and philosophy of medicine. He is particularly interested in the ethics of the patient-physician relationship and how to integrate evidence-based and precision medicine to provide individualized, person-centered care. His current work focuses on the philosophical implications of big data, genomic medicine and artificial intelligence in clinical practice. He is also exploring trends in digital health technologies, and how to develop tools to better deliver equitable care across populations.
Michael Cournoyea (Chair)
Michael Cournoyea completed his PhD in the philosophy of medicine at the University of Toronto’s Institute for History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. His dissertation explored diagnostic explanations in evolutionary medicine, network medicine, and medically unexplained syndromes. His current work focuses on medical uncertainty among COVID ‘long-haulers’ and pseudoscientific analogs outside scientific practice. He is currently the Chair of the Philosophy of Medicine Working Group.
Sunit Das is a neurosurgeon and scientist at St.Michael’s Hospital and the Research Institute of the Hospital for Sick Kids and an Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Toronto. Dr. Das studied English Literature at the University of Michigan and Philosophy at Harvard University before moving to Chicago for medical school at Northwestern University. He completed his doctoral studies in Neurobiology at the National Institutes of Health, where he studied the molecular processes that underlie adult neurogenesis in the lab of Dr. ZuHang Sheng. He returned to Chicago for his neurosurgical residency, during which time he also began work on cancer stem cells in primary brain tumours in the lab of Dr. John Kessler. He was recruited to the University of Toronto in 2010. Dr. Das’s clinical practice and clinical research focus of the treatment of patients with tumours of the brain and spine. His laboratory at the Hospital for SickKids focuses on the molecular and genetic mechanisms that regulate cellular plasticity, fate specification and treatment resistance in glioblastoma. He is a member of the Arthur and Sonia Labatt Brain Tumour Research Centre at the Hospital for Sick Children, and faculty with the Institute of Medical Science and Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology. His work has been published in many high impact journals, including Nature, Nature Genetics, Cell Stem Cell, Cancer Cell, JAMA, JAMA Neurology, and the New England Journal of Medicine. In 2017, he joined the Centre for Ethics at the University of Toronto. His work at the Centre for Ethics focuses on the interface of AI with medicine, issues that underlie professional identity in medical practice, and the ethics of surgical innovation.
I am a PhD candidate focusing on the philosophy of science and medicine at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto. I am generally interested in questions surrounding the roles of values on the production and measurement of experimental evidence, specifically biomedical evidence. I’m currently researching the intersections of philosophy of experimentation and values in science and medicine through looking at medical side effects. Past research I’ve done deals with the social epistemology of the ‘replication crisis,’ measurement and prediction of subjective phenomena in medicine, and the relationship between values and techniques.
Dr. Brian Feldman is Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, and the Institute of Health Policy Management & Evaluation at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. He is Division Head of Rheumatology at The Hospital for Sick Children. Dr. Feldman graduated from the University of Western Ontario (MD, 1985) and he did further graduate training in clinical epidemiology at the University of Toronto (MSc, 1994). He interned at the Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and went on to do a core pediatric residency at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. Dr. Feldman returned to Toronto to be an associate chief resident at The Hospital for Sick Children. He stayed on there to complete a fellowship in pediatric rheumatology. Dr. Feldman’s main focus has been in clinical epidemiology research in the field of childhood rheumatic disease. Recognizing the challenges involved in the study of rare disease Dr. Feldman has worked to improve the tools available to assist in this research. He has worked at developing and refining outcome measurement tools for use in clinical trials and in outcome studies. He has developed innovative methodologies for the study of new therapies (e.g. the Randomized Placebo Phase Design) and refined and tested powerful existing methods (e.g. Bayesian meta-analysis of n-of-1 randomized trials). Dr. Feldman has made contributions to the understanding of the prognosis and treatment of juvenile dermatomyositis, the cost-effective prevention of arthropathy in severe hemophilia, the course and outcome of systemic-onset juvenile idiopathic arthritis and juvenile SLE, and the role of fitness and exercise in childhood chronic diseases including arthritis and fibromyalgia. Dr. Feldman’s research, by its nature, is collaborative. As such he is a member of the Pediatric Rheumatology Collaborative Study Group, the Canadian Alliance of Pediatric Rheumatology Investigators, the International Myositis Assessment Criteria study group, and other collaborative organizations. He is one of the founding members of the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance (CARRA), and was the head of its protocol evaluation subcommittee and chair of its Juvenile Dermatomyositis subcommittee.
Juliette Ferry-Danini, PhD
I am a philosopher of medicine interested in conceptual, epistemological and ethical questions about medicine. I earned my PhD in philosophy at Sorbonne Université in Paris, France. I will be a postdoctoral fellow in 2020-2021 at the Center for Ethics at the University of Toronto.
Jonathan Fuller is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. He is also Deputy Editor of the journal Philosophy of Medicine, host of the podcast series Philosophers on Medicine, and former founding Chair of the Philosophy of Medicine Working Group. His areas of research focus are the philosophy of medicine and philosophy of science, especially the nature of disease, evidence-based medicine, epidemiology, and medical diagnosis. His work has been published in philosophical and medical journals as well as venues for a popular audience. Jonathan completed an MD, a PhD in philosophy of medicine, and a Research Fellowship in health professions education, all from the University of Toronto. He aims to combine his training in medicine, philosophy and education to advance research and healthcare. His current major project is a book-in-progress for Oxford University Press, tentatively titled The New Modern Medicine.
Patrick Garon-Sayegh is a lawyer and S.J.D. candidate at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law. His research focuses on medical malpractice, and in particular how medical expert evidence is used to prove the applicable standard of care and establish medical error or negligence. This research builds on his experience as a litigator, working on complex disputes involving expert witnesses. His interest in the philosophy of medicine centers on the following areas: the concepts of evidence, fact, and expertise; clinical reasoning and the interpretation of evidence and guidelines; the role of rhetoric and argumentation in medical, legal, and philosophical reasoning. His research is animated by a “rhetorical-philosophical” approach, which gives primacy to the linguistic-symbolic dimension of inquiry (be it medical, legal, scientific or philosophical). This approach draws on often overlooked commonalities between diverse strands of thought, including: Actor-Network Theory (primarily as developed by B. Latour and J. Law), rhetoric and argumentation theory (following C. Perelman, K. Burke, and S. Toulmin), philosophical hermeneutics (following the work of H.G. Gadamer), and realist-constructivist philosophy of science (following I. Hacking). In the broadest terms, his research can be described as centered on law–science interaction in contexts where specific actions must be justified.
Maryam is an aspiring essayist and family physician. She’s currently a medical student at the University of Toronto and recently co-led a scoping review on the use of arts and humanities in medical education for the American Association of Medical Colleges. She completed her BA in English Literature, Theory and Criticism and then her MA in Critical Theory at Western University, Canada. She has research experiences and interests in contemporary literature, critical theory and continental philosophy, medical/health humanities, and medical education.
Maya Goldenberg is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Guelph and a member of Graduate Faculty at the Institute for History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto. Her research in philosophy of medicine and philosophy of science focuses on medical epistemology (concept of evidence, clinical reasoning and justification), and the science-values nexus in the public domain. She is author of Vaccine Hesitancy: Public Trust, Expertise, and the War on Science (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021).
Ewan Goligher, M.D., Ph.D.
Ewan Goligher MD, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Interdepartmental Division of Critical Care Medicine at the University of Toronto and a Scientist at the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute. After studying biochemistry and medicine at the University of British Columbia, he trained in Internal Medicine and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Toronto and subsequently earned a doctoral degree in physiology from the University of Toronto, focusing on diaphragmatic dysfunction during mechanical ventilation. His research program focuses on characterizing the mechanisms and impact of injury to the lung and diaphragm during mechanical ventilation and on the use of innovative clinical trial designs to test lung and diaphragm-protective ventilation strategies. In philosophy of medicine, he is interested in the concept of futility and in the role of foundational beliefs in moral conflict in medicine.
Paul Istasy BSc. MA.
I am currently a first-year medical student at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario. My interests in the intersection of the humanities and the sciences began in my undergraduate degree where I pursued a Bachelor of Science with an Honours Specialization in Neuroscience and a Major in Philosophy. I further cultivated these interests by completing a Master’s Degree in Philosophy at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Western Ontario where I was a resident member of the Rotman Institute of Philosophy. Throughout my M.A degree, I focused on the philosophical issues that arise in medical practice: these ranged from the influence of Artificial Intelligence on the physician-patient trust relationship, to the question of what constitutes sufficient evidence in the medical sciences, to an analysis of descriptive theories of diagnostic reasoning. My research mainly focuses on epistemological issues arising in medical practice; additionally I am interested in the ethics and epistemology of AI in medicine.
I am a PhD student at the IHPST. I have a BA and MA in philosophy from UBC. My work in the philosophy of medicine has focused on approaches to the evaluation of evidence quality. More recently I have been interested in the history and philosophy of psychiatry. I am currently writing about the history of LSD in 1950s psychiatry. My dissertation project will probably focus on this topic, and will hopefully have some philosophical implications for the current wave of attempts to use psychedelic drugs in psychiatry. I am also interested in exploring the relation between psychological factors and physical health (e.g. stress research, psychosomatic medicine, psychoneuroimmunology, biopsychosocial approaches) and hope to do more work in the history and philosophy of this area of medicine. I am happy to collaborate on projects related to any of my interests.
I am a PhD candidate in Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Collaborative Specialization in Bioethics at the University of Toronto. My dissertation examines the normative underpinnings of the contemporary policy debate concerning the introduction of pharmacare (universal pharmaceutical insurance) in Canada. To date, most of my research has been in bioethics (especially public health, global health, and professional ethics) and pharmaceutical policy. I am also interested in the intersection of ethics and evidence, especially in pharmaceutical and health policy decision-making and discourse.
Lester Liao MD MTS is a pediatric rheumatology fellow at the Hospital for Sick Children. Prior to coming to Toronto he completed his pediatric residency at the University of Alberta where he served as the Resident Affiliate of the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre and the Resident lead of the Arts and Humanities in Health and Medicine Program. He has also previously served as the Canadian liaison for the International Doctor as a Humanist Symposium. His research focuses on the role of culture in ethics and the philosophy of childhood.
Karl Loszak, MD, FRCPC
Karl Loszak is a practicing psychiatrist and psychoanalyst enrolled in the flex-time doctoral program at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. He completed his MA at IHPST in 2018. His interests include philosophy of mind and history of psychoanalysis. His work has centred on the social conception of mind in its various manifestations: biosemiotics, distributed cognition, social epistemology, language as constitutive of mind, and the process of co-construction occurring in the intersubjective field of psychoanalytic treatment. Recently, Karl’s focus has taken a historical turn. His current project examines the work of American psychiatrist, Harry Stack Sullivan, as a bridge between the social mind conceived by the Chicago school of the Progressive Era and elements of contemporary psychoanalytic theory.
Claire MacMurray, B.A.& Sc.
Claire is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Toronto. Her past experience lies in the field of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. She is notably intrigued by the failure to treat Alzheimer’s disease despite a robust dedication of effort and, consequently, compelled by the use of philosophy to address the conceptual shortcomings of the field. A brief internship at the Institute of the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology in Paris leaves her strongly advocating for the crosstalk of science and philosophy. Claire currently coordinates an interdisciplinary philosophy of science discussion group as an effort to advocate for crosstalk. Her present research is guided by the following question, “what processes contribute to the human ability to learn?”. Leveraging the conceptual tools of process ontology is something she intends to incorporate while pursuing her thesis.
I am an MD Candidate at the University of Toronto and a Junior Fellow at Massey College, co-enrolled in an MSc in Health Policy, Management and Evaluation with an emphasis upon the effective and ethical implementation of artificial intelligence in clinical practice. My research in the philosophy of medicine relates mainly to neuroethics, artificial intelligence, and the future of the physician role in the context of the fourth industrial revolution. I am always happy to bring a clinical or computational perspective to any and all collaborations!
Mathew Mercuri BKin MSc PhD PhD
Mathew Mercuri completed a PhD in Health Research Methods (McMaster University) and a PhD in Philosophy of Science (IHPST, University of Toronto). He also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Medicine at Columbia University. Mathew is currently an Assistant Professor in both the Department of Medicine at McMaster University and the Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto, in addition to lecturer roles at Victoria College and the IHPST. His healthcare research has contributed to our understanding of the organization of healthcare services, issues around ionizing radiation exposure from medical imaging, and methodological issues in the study of medical practice variations. His current academic interests focus on understanding what makes something evidence for clinical practice and how generated knowledge from clinical research is used by healthcare stakeholders. Mathew is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice. The journal publishes an annual thematic issue in Philosophy of Medicine.
Dr. Ramesh Prasad
Dr. Prasad obtained his MBBS medical degree from Osmania University, Hyderabad, India. He completed his Internal Medicine residency at Wayne State University-Detroit Medical Center, Nephrology fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and Transplantation Nephrology fellowship at Toronto General Hospital. He holds an MSc degree from the Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto, plus MA and PhD degrees in Philosophy from the University of Waterloo. He is a staff nephrologist and Director of the Kidney Transplant Program at St. Michael’s Hospital, and a Fellow of the American Society of Transplantation. Dr. Prasad’s research interests include all aspects pertinent to the long-term health of kidney transplant recipients and donors. He is particularly interested in transplant-related cardiovascular disease, the eradication of organ trafficking and transplant tourism, and the philosophy of medicine especially the epistemology and metaphysics of organ transplantation.
Dr. Ross Upshur
Dr. Ross Upshur is currently the Dalla Lana Chair in Clinical Public Health and Head of the Division of Clinical Public Health at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, Scientific Director, Bridgepoint Collaboratory for Research and Innovation and Associate Director of the Lunenfeld Tanenbaum Research Institute, Sinai Health System. At the University of Toronto, he is a Professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and the Department of Family and Community Medicine, affiliate member of the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology and Adjunct Senior Scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. He is interested in all aspects of philosophy of medicine!
Adrian K. Yee
Adrian K. Yee (BA UBC; MA Toronto) is a 3rd-year PhD student at the Institute for the History & Philosophy of Science and Technology. His dissertation focuses on the methodology of poverty research and the nature of evidence in the social sciences. His interests in the philosophy of medicine include the uses and abuses of statistics in medical research, the politics of alternative medicine, and measures of nutritional deprivation. He retains active side interests in the history of economic thought and the history of physics.