Dr. Joseph Raho
“I was a young nobody when a generous man gave me a chance. Bioethicist Dan Davis was Executive Director at the President’s Council on Bioethics in Washington DC. We had a shared interest in phenomenology, and he offered to mentor me and keep me engaged in some of the research of the President’s Council. Through him, I was able to work on several projects and even become a research assistant to Edmund Pellegrino.”
I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but I had a string of good luck in my early twenties. I studied Philosophy in college and wanted to apply that skillset to help solve real-world problems. I thought I would find that in the law. After graduating from college, I had applied to a number of law schools, but didn’t get into the ones I wanted, and decided not to attend the school that had accepted me. Instead, I moved to Washington DC and took a job as a front desk attendant for the President’s Council on Bioethics. I ended up with the Council for 3.5 years, working in both administrative and research capacities, and eventually became Pellegrino’s research assistant for 1.5 years. The Council was an interesting mix of diverse opinions. It was challenging and formative to be surrounded by PhDs, political and moral philosophers whose conversations swirled around me all day. I also was fortunate to attend many of the Council’s public meetings, learning from so many luminaries in the field.
“I like to find the moral essence in concrete situations.”
While in D.C., I studied Italian for about two years. I’m half Italian on my paternal side, so the Italian language and culture have always been fascinating to me. When the term of The Council was about to expire, in 2009, much was up in the air. I decided to take my chances and try to pursue bioethics in an international setting—in Italy. I gave myself 6 months. I enrolled in an intensive language program in Perugia, and applied to PhD programs in philosophy during that time. I ultimately did my graduate work at the University of Pisa, under the guidance of Prof. Sergio Bartolommei. I came back to the United States with a PhD in Philosophy, concentrating in bioethics, with a dissertation on end-of-life issues. I was a clinical ethics fellow at the UCLA Ethics Center for 18 months, and now work with them as a Clinical Ethicist. This is my sixth year teaching “Bioethics at the End of Life” for LMU.