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High-Profile Bioethicist Out as Head of Institute He Founded

Author and columnist Glenn McGee is no longer director of Albany Medical College's Alden March Bioethics Institute

Glenn McGee, the founder of the Alden March Bioethics Institute (AMBI)—part of Albany Medical College (AMC)—has left his post as director of the AMBI. The institute and the renowned bioethicist, author and columnist parted ways sometime last month, according to a college spokesperson and confirmed by McGee.

"He is no longer director," said Greg McGarry, AMC's vice president for communications. McGarry would not comment on the circumstances of the split or whether the bioethicist remains in good standing with the school. Vincent Verdile, dean of AMC and executive vice president of health affairs at Albany Medical Center, will be stepping in as AMBI interim director as the college searches for a successor.

McGee told ScientificAmerican.com that he was unhappy in his administrative position and chose to give up his directorial duties. He noted, however, that he has multiple offers of directorships from institutions similar to AMBI but, as of yet, has not decided on his next move. He may continue in some role at AMBI, and will remain as editor in chief of The American Journal of Bioethics, a leading publication he founded in 2000. He said he is working on a book on ethics and autism that he hopes to finish in the next month.

Of interim director Verdile, McGee said: "I've published with him and I think he's capable of leading the institution into its next phase. It would have been terrible news to hear that the institution had picked someone who had not published in ethics."

McGee, 40, founded AMBI in 2005, making him the youngest head of any U.S. bioethics institute. AMBI gathered faculty from a dozen institutions near Albany; those scientists now earn more than $3 million per year in grants for their research.

McGee—who has a Ph.D. in philosophy from Vanderbilt University—came to Albany from the University of Pennsylvania, where he had served as associate director for education at the school's Center for Bioethics from 1995 to 2005. He is the author of two books—Beyond Genetics: The User's Guide to DNA and The Perfect Baby: A Pragmatic Approach to Genetics—and the editor of three others. He is a former columnist for the Albany Times Union newspaper and The Scientist.

In 2007, The Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce named him one of the 10 most influential people in New York State's Tech Valley—a 19-county region spanning from just south of the New York–Canadian border to just north of New York City.

McGee has lectured worldwide on the social, political and personal effects of technology. According to his biography at the institute's Web site, "[McGee's] task as a researcher has been to show the connections between our moral lives, medicine and the biomedical sciences."

"At the end of the day, though, I would not class myself as a guy that's particularly good at pushing paper," McGee told ScientificAmerican.com. "I built my career on bioethics on writing and making up weird ideas and pursuing them."

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