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Faculty in Focus - Abraham Schwab

Associate Professor Abraham Schwab joined COAS’s Department of Philosophy in 2010. He specializes in biomedical ethics, especially conflicts of interest in the medical community. Schwab uses his expertise for both traditional scholarship and community service.

Although his PhD dissertation focused on cognitive dissonance and decision-making, Schwab’s move to Fort Wayne shifted his research to conflicts of interest. “Fort Wayne is somewhere between a large city and a small town. I came here from New York, and one of the first things I realized is that it’s not about if you’re going to see somebody you know when you go out, it’s a question of who you’re going to see when you go out.” This kind of community interaction interested Schwab because it increases the potential for conflicts of interest. “Anytime I’m making a business decision or doing my job as a city council member or in any particular role I inhabit, I might know somebody I’m dealing with on a personal level. So, I have this personal pull to do something that may or may not match up perfectly with what I ought to be doing in the best interest of my client or my constituent.”

Schwab uses his knowledge of ethics in many community roles. He is a member of the ethics committees of Lutheran and St. Joe hospitals, where he gives talks and presentations on ethical issues. He serves on the institutional review board for Lutheran Health Network for the ethical treatment of human subjects in research and chairs the Northeast Indiana Coalition for Advanced Care Planning (NICA), where he helps with end of life planning and other “twilight of life situations.” Schwab also joined the Allen County Ethics Commission and was elected chair in 2014 and 2015. Finally, he writes a monthly column for NIPR, Fort Wayne's National Public Radio affiliate, and intermittent articles for the Journal Gazette newspaper. He writes about issues such as end-of-life choices, Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP), Obamacare, and other bioethical issues, using his academic expertise to address ethical and philosophical issues that affect the local community.

He also focuses on community and applied ethics in his classes. In COAS’s Department of Philosophy, Schwab is the advisor for the minor in professional and applied ethics and the bioethics certificate.  Both programs require students to take a practicum course through which they can apply the theoretical principles they have studied. As Schwab explains, “The practicum is largely an effort to get them to go out into a community to work in  an area they’re already interested in and to shadow, to be involved in some way with somebody who is working in that area, and then to journal about it.” Students go to not-for-profits, hospitals, and other local businesses to apply classroom theory. One student sat in on group therapy sessions at Byron Health Center, a Fort Wayne assisted living facility. A psychology major interviewed child psychiatrists about ethical issues they encounter professionally. Another student’s internship that focused on business ethics ultimately led to a post-graduation job with the company.

Presently, Schwab plans to continue his work in the community and also to tackle more traditional scholarship. He plans to write a book on conflicts of interest, specifically “what are your role-based responsibilities, and how can we make it so that individuals trying to fulfill those responsibilities are in a position to do it well without having a conflict with their personal interests.” Schwab’s work is an important example of combining scholarship with community service, which benefits both the academic and the northeast Indiana community.

To learn more about Schwab’s research, watch the Faculty in Focus video posted above. For more on Schwab, the applied ethics, bioethical, or other philosophy programs, contact the philosophy department.