Director, Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics
Ruth Berggren, M.D., FACP, directs the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. In this role, she teaches ethics and professionalism while nurturing empathy and humanitarian values. The Center focuses on four areas: ethics and professionalism; global health; community service learning; and the medical humanities (literature, music and art).
Dr. Berggren arrived at the UT Health Science Center in fall 2006 after an eventful stint at New Orleans’ Charity Hospital, where she stood by her mostly uninsured patients in the HIV ward during Hurricane Katrina until all were safely evacuated six days later. She reflected on the experience in articles published in the New England Journal of Medicine and a commencement address to the Health Science Center School of Medicine. Her determination to inspire humanism in medicine and effect change through her own experiences led to her being named director of the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics in October 2007.
The daughter of public health physicians, Dr. Berggren spent her childhood at Haiti’s Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, named for the Nobel Prize-winning physician and humanitarian known for his philosophy of reverence for life. During medical school, she was named an Albert Schweitzer Fellow and traveled to the West African nation of Gabon to work at the hospital established by Dr. Schweitzer. Her involvement in global health and ties to Haiti continue today. Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Dr. Berggren was active in relief efforts along the Haitian-Dominican border. She lectured widely on these experiences and on disaster preparedness for the American College of Physicians, Centers for Disease Control, American Medical Association, Pan American Health Organization and medical schools nationwide.
Board-certified in internal medicine and infectious diseases, Dr. Berggren has extensive experience in clinical AIDS and viral hepatitis care and research, as well as HIV care in resource-poor settings. At UT Southwestern Medical Center, she pioneered a program for the treatment of hepatitis C in individuals co-infected with HIV. As a faculty member at Tulane University, she founded a program preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV in rural Haiti. Today, she sees patients with and without insurance in San Antonio, where she continues to experience firsthand the ethical dilemmas faced by physicians working in the U.S. health care system. She has a particular interest in addressing barriers to health care access, health disparities and medical error.
She earned a Bachelor of Arts in biology with high honors from Oberlin College, followed by an M.D. from Harvard Medical School. She completed an internal medicine residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and an infectious diseases fellowship at the University of Colorado, where she was a Division of AIDS Fellow funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Berggren is the Marvin Forland, M.D., Distinguished Professor in Medical Ethics, and she holds the James J. Young Chair for Excellence in Medical Education.
Click here for a feature story on Dr. Berggren's work from the UT Health Science Center San Antonio