Catherine Hammack, JD, MA

October 2015

Catherine originally sought a Master’s degree in Bioethics to supplement her legal education (JD/MA ’14). As a joint degree student, she hoped to help make positive changes in the healthcare and medical research fields. As Catherine delved into law and bioethics at the same time, the latter actually became her focus. She “learned that knowing what we may do from a legal standpoint is secondary to determining what we should do from an ethics standpoint.”

What stood out to Catherine the most from the program were the people. She explains, “I learned countless lessons from every one of my classmates and professors. The people at the Bioethics program are an invaluable resource of tried-and-true knowledge, unique experiences, new ideas, different perspectives, and encouragement and support. Throughout my time in the program, my classmates and professors became my mentors and role models, and also my friends.”

Catherine now lives in Durham, NC and works as an analyst in the Program for Empirical Bioethics at Duke Clinical Research Institute, the world’s largest academic research institution. The program’s aim is to advance effective policies and practices through empirical research on bioethical issues in medical care and research. Due to her degrees in law and bioethics, she now collects and analyzes empirical evidence regarding a variety of legal and ethical issues in medicine and research in order to develop policies, model language, and best practices. Catherine is currently working on a collaborative effort to develop a novel electronic informed consent process for one of the largest pragmatic clinical trials. Additionally, she is gathering quantitative and qualitative data from thought leaders throughout the country (and world!) about confidentiality in genome research as well as data from lay persons at multiple sites throughout the Southeast about researchers’ use of electronic health records. Catherine helped coordinate the Ethics and Regulatory Core for the NIH Health Care Systems Research Collaboratory and worked alongside leaders at Johns Hopkins University on the Collaboratory Supplement for Empirical Ethics.

Catherine’s education in Bioethics helped her to develop her critical thinking skills, introduced her to established leaders in the field, exposed her to new ideas, and helped her hone in on skills in a way that prepared her to contribute to the field. With an original goal to make positive changes in the healthcare and medical research fields, she is certainly doing exactly that!