Speaker, Author and Professor
of Ethics, Intercultural Ethics,
Medical Ethics & Asian Philosophy

Medical Ethics Speaker, Author, Professor

Medical ethics speaker Michael C. BranniganHow did I get here?  My passion for intercultural studies, ethics, and healthcare as a professor of ethics has a long history.  “About me” is really “about us.”  My journey began in Fukuoka, Japan, my mother’s birthplace and mine.  That’s where she, Misae Kimura, and my Irish-American father, Tom Brannigan, fell in love and generated four children, I being the first, ichiban.   My two sisters, identical twins Maggie and Marie, were born three years later in Yokohama.  My brother Tom saw the light of day just outside of Chicago while we were en route to Newport, Rhode Island, where my dad’s parents settled from their Irish roots.

We were the only Japanese, or Asians for that matter, in an Irish-Catholic neighborhood called Newport’s Fifth Ward.  There, everyone walked.  I always visited my grandparents just a few blocks away.  Grandma always had food on hand, and Grandpa fed me a diet of books and magazines.  It was probably his missionary magazines that inspired me to enter our diocese’s college seminary and afterwards Belgium’s prestigious Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven to study theology.  Though I later left the seminary, I completed my Masters degree in Religious Studies and went on to complete my Ph.D. in Philosophy at Leuven’s Hoger Institute der Wisbegeerte.

Throughout my stay in Belgium, I traveled everywhere at any chance I had on my BSA motorcycle.  It was always my “on the road seminars” where I learned unfailing and treasured lessons of struggle, persistence, promise, loss, and hope.  Friends, family, companions, and strangers were my real texts.

Upon my return to Newport, I life-guarded at nearby SachuestBeach during summers and at hotel pools in winters.  “Doc,”  as I was called, couldn’t eke out a living life-guarding, not in New England, so I pounded the streets in New York (you could do that then) and landed my first teaching gig at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, Westchester County.  There, I worked with a fabulous group of colleagues and scholars, particularly in our Philosophy and Religious Studies Department.

My real game-changer occurred when I met an angel named Brooke.  We married and moved to Pittsburgh, where I taught at La Roche College as Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies.  I also founded and became Executive Director of the college’s Institute for Cross-Cultural Ethics, at that time one of the few college-based initiatives to explore ethics from intercultural perspectives.

Kansas City and Albany

All of this real-life, clinical experience continues to enrich my appreciation of the intricate complexities in healthcare and to better grasp the world of patients and their suffering.  This spurred me on to commit an academic taboo.  Though full-professor and “tenured,” I left academia’s safe harbor to work for a non-profit think-tank at Kansas City, the Center for Practical Bioethics, as Vice President for Clinical and Organizational Ethics.  There, I worked with nearly 25 hospitals leading and coordinating ethics education with medical staff, nursing, social work, psychiatrists, chaplains, and ethics committees.  As with my hospice experience, no education can ever replace my invaluable lessons from patients, their families, and their caregivers.

Other Gigs

I occasionally participate as visiting Faculty for Cardiff University’s Health Communication Research Centre’s Summer Session in Cardiff, Wales.  There, we have a wonderfully collegiate and engaging group of scholars worldwide who explore the relationship between communication, ethics, and medicine.  I am often asked to participate as a medical ethics speaker at numerous university venues, such as the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine.  The School of Medicine’s renowned Sirridge School of Medical Humanities and Bioethics recently awarded me the distinction of being the 2012 Medical Humanities Lecturer, and I am now on the school’s Advisory Board.

As you can see, I remain deeply excited about and committed to exploring cultural perspectives, particularly in ethics and in healthcare.  Through speaking engagements at numerous conferences, I’ve been fortunate to engage in dialogue with colleagues from various quarters throughout the world in places like Turkey, Cardiff, Tokyo, Kyoto, Salzburg, Italy, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.  National, regional, and local venues also keep me thoroughly engaged with communities and organizations on various levels including: the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics and other national conferences, colleges and universities, medical centers, hospital ethics committees, human resource associations, interfaith religious groups, senior citizen organizations, libraries, summer camps, arts and humanities groups, etc.  Though Brooke insists I need to learn to say “no,” speaking, lecturing, research, and writing is in my DNA.

And for fun?  Well, I do not separate fun from work.  I love philosophy, ethics, and all matters cultural.  For leisure, however, my pursuits are varied – piano, guitar, swimming, kayaking, tennis (Brooke always outplays me), martial arts, and reading, reading, and more reading.  Brooke and I have nestled into a home in Niskayuna, New York, about a 40 minute drive to Albany.  There we live happily with our dog Seamus, who keeps us entertained and on our toes.  And, as always, Brooke keeps me anchored in what really matters.