Sharon West, RN, MHS

July 2016

Sharon West was awarded a Graduate Certificate in Clinical Ethics from Wake Forest University in December 2013. Sharon lives in Asheville, NC and is the Nurse Manager for Women Veterans Services at the Asheville VA Medical Center. She has 3 adult children: Paul, Kellye, and Jennifer.

Sharon’s interest in Bioethics was piqued after a conversation with Dr. Edmund Pellegrino in the early 2000s at an ethics seminar. Dr. Pellegrino and Sharon had a mutual and well-respected friend, Dr. Marian Gray Secundy, professor emeritus of bioethics at Howard University Medical School. Dr. Pellegrino sent Sharon a letter saying how much he enjoyed their conversation and that he hoped she would pursue bioethics. He also shared that there is a severe lack of bioethicists who are African American. Many years later, after completing her graduate studies, Sharon, who never forgot his words of encouragement, followed his advice. Her search for the right program that would help her to gain extensive knowledge in the area of bioethics led her to Wake Forest University. Sharon believes that the Bioethics Program at Wake Forest really stood out.

Her fondest memory of the program is the passion of the professors. Each helped Sharon figure out the piece of the bioethics puzzle and every class stretched her academically. Even though she endured a four-hour roundtrip commute from Asheville, the experience and opportunity to engage with the professors far outweighed the time and effort.

Sharon is using her Bioethics Certificate as a member of two ethics committees. She also teaches clinical ethics as an adjunct faculty member in a local nursing program at Mars Hill University. The Graduate Certificate in Clinical Ethics has given Sharon more confidence in moral reasoning, which has helped in discussions with colleagues, students, and committee members. She is one of the few ethics committee members who has academically prepared in this area. Consequently, she is sought out frequently for clarity on various bioethics topics.

Sharon will retire in three years but will continue teaching ethics in an adjunct capacity and maintain her role on one of the ethics committee. She also plans to pursue teaching nursing ethics in other local nursing schools, and she is currently pursuing further study in clinical ethics. Sharon’s valuable role in the bioethics community exemplifies one of the ways that thoughtful, pragmatic health care professionals can both enhance their own knowledge and teach many others by studying and practicing bioethics.