Bioethics Dual Degree Program (M.A.)

Why Bioethics?

Access to care, futile care, health disparity, and population health are among the issues that are, for an informed physician, unavoidable and require consideration of not only technology but also mission and values. A framework for understanding and responding to these important issues is needed, and learning the languages of bioethics is but a first step in the process of learning ethical medicine. 

The KCU Department of Bioethics prepares students to deal with critical issues, such as stem-cell research, genetic engineering end-of-life care, health care equity and public policy, the globalization of medicine, and clinical ethics consultation.

Earn an MA in Bioethics While Earning Your DO

Kansas City University’s dual-degree track in Bioethics is approximately 44 months in length and designed for medical students who decide to pursue a joint degree.

Students tell us the program work load is not difficult to manage with the College of Medicine. They have actually said that the Bioethics Program is a welcome change from the COM focus on science. Bioethics helps remind the students why they came to medical school – to care for people.

Admissions Requirements

  • Be in good academic standing within the College of Osteopathic Medicine at KCU.
  • Submit an application and brief essay regarding why you want to enroll in the Bioethics Program.
  • First year COM students will submit their applications by December 6, 2023.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many credits is the Bioethics Dual Degree Program?

When you graduate, you will have taken 30 credit hours in bioethics. There are three one-credit ethics courses taught to all COM students. If you do the bioethics program, those three credits will be applied to the bioethics degree.

When does the program begin and end?

Your first dual degree class begins with the Spring Semester in your first year. You will take a course each semester and complete the degree in the spring of your fourth year, in time to graduate with both a DO and an MA.

How do I apply for the program?

There is a very short application online. You complete a few questions and write a short essay about why you want to do the program. Since we already have your documentation for enrollment in the College of Medicine, we do not require additional submission of documents. Applications are due by December 6, 2023. We will notify of your acceptance before Winter Break begins.

When are classes held?

The classes meet once a week, on either a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday evening 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Central Time. 

What happens if we have a particularly difficult week in College of Medicine with several exams in a week?

Our professors are aware that occasionally school schedules can be extra challenging. Usually, the students will tell the bioethics professor of the dilemma and if everyone agrees, the class may be re-scheduled.

Is this degree graded Pass/Fail as is the COM?


What if I begin the program and decide not to finish it?

You can withdraw from the program without penalty. If you withdraw during the middle of a course, a W will be on your transcript. If you withdraw at the conclusion of a course, there is nothing that says you withdrew from the program.

How are we charged for the program?

You pay each semester for the course(s) you are taking in that semester.

Can the Dual Degree be taken from either campus?

Yes. Since our classes are designed to serve both campuses there is always a remote option no matter from which campus the course originates.

Do I have to remain in Kansas City for third and fourth year?

No, you may do your rotations at any of the sites. Your classes in third year will still be on a specific evening and you will join in virtually. In fourth year, you will be working independently.

I have plans during the summer between first and second year and I will miss the June class. How can I make that up?

Yes, we have a couple of options to make up courses.

Do I have to write a thesis?

No, you do not. Students may either complete comprehensive exams in their fourth year, or, if they choose to do so, may alternatively write a thesis.

What do I have to do so I can write a thesis?

Usually during your third year, you submit a short form with your thesis idea. We call it “Petitioning to Write a Thesis.” The Chair of Bioethics will review your idea and give you feedback. If your thesis topic is approved, a mentor will be assigned to work with you. 

Our Faculty 

We are fortunate to have amazing faculty in the Department of Bioethics. Our full-time department members are:

James Hearn, PhD
Assistant Professor of Bioethics


Luke Bobo, PhDBioethics Director, Assistant Professor of

Our part-time faculty from prestigious health care institutions and schools are:

Karen Divelbiss, MD, MA
Kelstan Ellis, DO, MA
Jeremy Garrett, PhD
Karla Keirns, MD, MA

Leslie McNolty, DPS, MA
Randal Morris, DPhil
Ryan Pferdehirt, PhD
Dane Sommer, DMin