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Undergraduates Score Second Place in National Bioethics Bowl Competition

April 04, 2008
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UM School of Business Administration seniors Ryan Kairalla, an economics and political science major, and Josh Morales, a business law major, took second place in the annual Bioethics Bowl competition, held April 4 through April 5 in Schenectady, New York.  They competed on a team with several other students from various schools at the University of Miami, including Nick Holzer, Carlos Alvarez, Danieli Evans, and Haley Kornfield.Bioethics bowl winners

The Bioethics Bowl is an invitation-only competition centered on medical ethics cases. Competitors are given the cases to review in advance and must conduct background research about the issues presented to prepare themselves to answer the questions.  They do not know in advance what the questions will be. Judges for the competition are PhD and MD scholars in bioethics, as well as some medical students. UM’s victory is especially impressive considering that the students on the team had significantly less knowledge of medical issues than the other teams.

“We prepared for about two months,” Kairalla explained.  “We had no knowledge of medical science so we had to do extensive background research and studying to get ready.”

This is the first time the University of Miami team has participated in the Bioethics Bowl, but this victory is not the first of its kind for Kairalla and Morales. Both were on the team that took first place in the 2007 Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl, besting defending champion West Point and 31 other qualifying teams.

Kairalla and Morales have been involved in ethics debates since the beginning of their time at the University of Miami. Morales says his interest in business ethics was sparked in 2004 when he entered the program. He was in an introductory class when Anita Cava, associate professor of business law and director of Business Ethics Programs, gave a lecture “that probably changed my life forever,” he says.

“I learned there was more to business than profit margins and the bottom line,” says Morales, who recalls that before meeting Cava, he and Kairalla had joked that business ethics could be a paradox.

The following year, he saw fliers for the School’s annual Ethics Debate and he and Kairalla decided right away to get involved.  They joined the University of Miami Ethics Society in the spring of 2006, and Morales is now president of the organization. Morales says his experiences with ethics organizations have been enriching one a blessing.

“It’s been a long ride and one of the best experiences I have ever had,” he says.  “We’ve been incredibly rewarded at the opportunity to discuss these issues out of the classroom.”

The University of Miami team received a plaque for the win in the Bioethics Bowl, which hangs in Cava’s office.

“She keeps it so we won’t fight over it,” Kairalla says with a smile. “But we told her we have to be allowed to come and look at it whenever we want.”

Kairalla and Morales plan to continue on a path of accomplishment and doing good things for the world beyond themselves. Morales will spend his summer doing research with the University of Miami Ethics Programs before attending the University of Virginia law school in the fall.  Kairalla will work for Teach for America next, and then he also has plans to go to law school.
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