A senior at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University is the guest editor for this month’s edition of the American Medical Association’s Journal of Ethics, focused on meat production and consumption and the effects of both on people’s health.
Elena Diller, a native of Rome, Georgia, who will graduate from MCG in May and head to an internal medicine residency at the University of Texas’ Medical Branch in Galveston, was selected for the opportunity during her freshman year. With guidance from her mentor Laura Williamson, PhD, director of the AU Center for Bioethics and Health Policy, Diller first had to choose a theme topic and proposed ethical questions around it.
“One of the things I’ve been thoughtful about for a long time is our food system and the way we use meat and dairy products in our diet, and how that is intertangled with our health,” Diller said. “It’s not just about what meat does in our bodies, but also about the health of the workers who are producing the meat and the effects of production on the environment. Food has always been interesting to me. There’s so much to enjoy about it, but there’s a lot we need to understand about the impact.”
Her years-long work on the edition included writing and editing case commentaries that explore a wide range of issues, from what should be considered when providing dietary counseling to patients with low incomes to how hospitals could offer more vegetarian options for patients. She also came up with topics for articles about policy — on topics like whether meat and poultry plants endanger workers and what health professions students should know about industrial agriculture and disease — and sought out expert authors to write them.
Diller, who also completed the AU Institute of Public and Preventive Health’s Graduate Certificate in Bioethics program while she was in medical school, said she has always been interested in ethical issues related to health and hopes to one day sit on the ethics committee for the health care facility she works for.
“I think a lot of times, particularly in health care, we want one right answer to a problem, and there’s not always that one right answer,” she said. “There are ways (to approach an issue) that are better than others — and certainly there can be a nuanced debate on either side. But if we are trying to keep changing things in health care and ultimately make people healthier, we should be having discussions about how we best do that.”
The American Medical Association Journal of Ethics’ mission is to help medical students, physicians and all health care professionals make sound ethical decisions in service to patients and society. Founded in 1999, the journal explores ethical questions and challenges that students and clinicians confront in their educational and practice careers.
Read the April edition, Meat and Health online.