Jodi Halpern

Jodi Halpern

Professor of Bioethics, Joint Medical Program
School of Public Health
(510) 642-4366
(510) 643-8771
Research Expertise and Interest
public health, bioethics, patient autonomy
Research Description

Jodi Halpern. M.D., Ph.D (Philosophy) is Professor of Bioethics and Medical Humanities in the Joint Medical Program and the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley. Her work brings together psychiatry, philosophy, affective forecasting and decision neuroscience to elucidate how people imagine and influence their own and each other's future health possibilities. Her first book, From Detached Concern to Empathy: Humanizing Medical Practice was called a “seminal work” by the Journal of the American Medical Association. Her upcoming book Remaking the Self in the Wake of Illness focuses on how people with health losses in the prime of life experience value and identity shifts. Her scholarly articles focus on topics that include emotions and decision-making, social dominance and bullying, post-war social reconciliation and the ethics of innovative technologies. Her work appears in publications such as the Journal of General Internal MedicinePediatricsEmotion ReviewJournal of Bioethics NeuroscienceGerontology and Global Public Health as well as in popular media. Her current scholarship focuses on how innovative technologies change how we adapt to health losses, how we view our futures and the trajectory of empathic curiosity across differences. Her new book project “Engineering Empathy” looks at the upcoming uses of technology in emotional relationships, including using AI/robotics in caregiving (AI psychotherapy, elder and childcare), the influence of virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) on empathy, and the influence of gaming on mental health. Halpern is also doing embedded research with scientists developing new technologies in neuroscience and gene editing. Halpern is invited to present this work internationally, including at the 2018 meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and at the 2018 Herrenhausen Conference on Translational Neuroscience in Germany.

Research Interests: 

  • Ethics of innovative technologies (AI, gene editing and neurotechnology)
  • Emotions and decision-making
  • Empathy and healthcare ethics
  • Public health ethics/distributitve justice
  • Patient autonomy, agency, and human rights

In the News

December 6, 2011

Researcher takes on ‘empathy fatigue’ in the workplace

A nurse refuses to help an ailing alcoholic who is upset to find a hospital detox unit closed. A hospital clerk brushes off a deceased woman’s grieving family as they try to pay her bills and claim her belongings. A charge nurse keeps the mother of gunshot victim from seeing her son, saying the emergency room is “too busy.” These harsh, real-life scenarios helped inspire Eve Ekman, a UC Berkeley doctoral student in social welfare, to study empathy burnout in the workplace, a condition expected to skyrocket this year due to the stress caused by the nation’s financial crisis.

March 18, 2011

Echoes of Mengele and Tuskegee, this time in Guatemala

Medical historian Susan Reverby, who first revealed postwar U.S. government medical experiments on Guatemalan prisoners and mental patients, said the story “fits the trope of a grade-B horror move.” But she warned a Berkeley audience that it’s “too easy” to distance ourselves from those who conducted the research.