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Anna Vargo: A Recent Bioethics Alumna Reflects on Her Degree and Future Endeavors

Newly graduated Anna Vargo, ’22SPS, had a great year in the Bioethics program at Columbia University. Within the past year, Vargo connected with her peers and professors, wrote for the Voices in Bioethics journal, and worked part-time throughout her degree. Now on her way to Albany Medical College to pursue medical school, Vargo reflects on her experiences at Columbia.

Tell us about your experience in the Bioethics program. What did you find most valuable about the program, and are you applying what you learned from the program in your work?

I had a great year in the Bioethics program at Columbia. All of the professors are very attentive and friendly, creating a great learning environment that was entirely different from my undergraduate experience at McGill University. What I found most valuable in Columbia's Bioethics program was definitely the faculty and student connections I have made. This program provided me with a balanced perspective for tackling complex bioethical issues in society and with confidence in making these difficult decisions in my future medical career. 

What advice would you give current Bioethics students who are considering a similar career path to yours?

Take advantage of all the opportunities available to you and connect with your professors and peers. Since almost every class is discussion and essay-based, use the many op-eds, midterms, and finals in your favor by getting your work published, which is undeniably important for medical school. Submitting to the program's journal—Voices in Bioethics—is a great start. Don't be afraid to speak up in class and get to know your professors! You never know who will be a great resource down the line. 

Has there been anything that pleasantly surprised you about the program that you wanted to share?

I think my favorite part of the program is the diverse class makeup. 


 Learning the perspectives of doctors, lawyers, premeds, and business people really facilitated broad discussions and showed me how to think outside the box with more well-rounded considerations.

At first, it was an adjustment from my undergrad, where everyone was the same age and had similar career aspirations (medicine or research), but I quickly learned how beneficial it was to gain new perspectives on issues in bioethics.

What excites you most about your future at Albany Medical College?

I am most excited about finally getting practical clinical experience by applying what I've learned from this bioethics program. We always talk about hypothetical clinical cases in class and how to respond, so I know that I am well-equipped to tackle the difficult situations that will arise at Albany Medical College, and throughout my career as a physician. 

How does the field of Bioethics come up in your previous positions at headversity and Three Story Clinic?

Upon the completion of the Bioethics program and reflecting on my past work at headversity, a workplace mental health company, and Three Story Clinic, a child and adolescent mental health clinic, I learned how both companies strive to promote the welfare of their clients and thereby promote beneficence in the name of bioethics. With mental health still being a fairly stigmatized topic, it also showed me how important it was to preserve the confidentiality and privacy of headversity users and Three Story Clinic patients, which are important issues that were heavily discussed in the bioethics program. Overall, I comprehended how my work was striving to protect a vulnerable group—individuals struggling with their mental health.


Learn more about Columbia’s M.S. in Bioethics program.