Get to Know Jeffrey Kahn, PhD, MPH


A Q&A with Jeffrey Kahn, PhD, MPH, the Andreas C. Dracopoulos Director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and Levi Professor of Bioethics and Public Policy. Dr. Kahn is also the featured presenter for The Associated’s upcoming November 5 Maimonides Society program “Genetic Tinkering: Could We? Should We?”

Jeffrey Kahn, PhD, MPH

What brought you to Baltimore? 

It was really a return to Baltimore for us, in that I did an MPH at Johns Hopkins in the mid 1980’s while I was a doctoral student at Georgetown and I always hoped I might have the chance to come back to the faculty. I was recruited back in 2011 and became director of the Berman Institute in 2016.

Your focus within the field of Bioethics is Genetic Engineering. Why is this a relevant area of concern? 

Ethics, policy and genetics is one area of focus for my work which has been an interest since I started studying bioethics when I was a molecular biology major in college. The issues have only continued as genetic research took off, from the sequencing of the human genome to the issues we’re grappling with today related to gene editing. With each advance the ethical issues seem to become more challenging—access to and use of genetic information; the implications of diagnostic genetic testing for ourselves and our children; and now we’re on the cusp of being able to modify individuals at the genetic level with unprecedented precision.

Have you seen any specifically Jewish issues within your field locally or globally? 

I’m not sure specifically Jewish, but many issues raise questions of Jewish law and about what the right thing to do is from the perspective of Judaism; but, my work has always been secular.

What is something you are looking forward to in the New Year? 

Finding time to work on writing a book, spending dedicated time with our (now adult) children, and for the renovations on our house to be finished!

Favorite book you’ve recently read? 

Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari.

For more details and to register for the November 5 event, which will explore the intersection of human genome editing and ethics, please visit: associated.org/maimonides.

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