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 philosophy, intercultural studies, ethics, and healthcare 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. I was the first, ichiban, of four children. 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 Irish grandparents just a few blocks away. Grandma always had food on hand, and Grandpa fed me a diet of books. 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 throughout Europe at any chance I had on my BSA motorcycle. These “on the road seminars” taught me 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 Sachuest Beach 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 the college’s Executive Director of its 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

It is real-life, clinical experience that 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

Upon participating as visiting Faculty for Cardiff University’s Health Communication Research Centre’s Summer Session in Cardiff, Wales, and getting to know a wonderfully collegiate and engaging group of international scholars, I became especially intrigued with the relationship between communication, ethics, and medicine. As in the past, for example, at Tokyo University’s Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Law, and when The University of Missouri-Kansas City’s renowned Sirridge School of Medical Humanities and Bioethics awarded me the distinction of being the 2012 Medical Humanities Lecturer, I continue to speak on medical ethics at numerous professional and public venues, such as Denmark’s University of Aalborg’s Communication, Medicine, and Ethics annual conferences. In April this year I will be a plenary speaker for a conference on Seniors and Communication at the University of Varese, Italy. I will also give a seminar at nearby University of Milan.

As you can see, my passion lies in 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 have also kept me thoroughly engaged with communities and organizations 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 now officially “retired,” an ugly term oftentimes denoting passivity, I’ll still be active writing (monthly newspaper column, book projects, etc.), reading, teaching, and speaking. And I can now spend more time with my beloved Brooke, who continues to be with IBM as Life Sciences Quality/Compliance Officer. Truly amazing in her work – managing a complex team and project, organizing and directing key initiatives, etc. – she embodies professionalism, commitment, and caring as a leader in the truest sense.

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 easily outshines me), martial arts exercises, and reading, reading, and more reading.

Brooke and I will soon nestle into a home in South Kingstown, Rhode Island (the Ocean State), close to the sea. As always, Brooke keeps me anchored in what really matters.