Bioethics team wins national title for second year in a row

By Sam Cushing | April 24, 2018 5:45pm

Photo courtesy of Patricia McShane.

Five Pilots entered, and five returned victorious at the 2018 National Bioethics Bowl Championship. In its third year as a team, University of Portland’s bioethics team has now won two national championships. 

On April 13 and 14, freshmen Alea Ha and Ryan Regier, juniors Nicholas Nelson and Owen Price, and senior Claire Shearer competed in seven rounds with a pool of 18 teams at the University of Alabama in Mobile. They each presented cases from a list of 15, each centering on ethical issues within science and medicine. 

“Bioethics [bowl] is specifically relating to biomedical ethics, like the kind of issues you might run into in a hospital setting relating to the health and wellness of people in general,” Nelson said. 

UP’s bioethics team is more diverse than others they encountered at the competition, as each member has a different major encompassing various STEM fields, nursing, and philosophy. 

“We were very different from the other teams in a lot of noteworthy ways,” Price said. “We were way more diverse academically… I think the thing that really sets us apart is how incredibly involved our coaches were.”

The team was led by their coach, professor Patricia McShane, and assistant coach, UP alumna (‘17) Elisa Reverman. McShane started the UP bioethics team when she came to the university in 2015. She also started bioethics and ethics teams at Georgetown University while she was a graduate student there.

“Patty McShane is an excellent coach,” Price said. “An incredible asset to the UP community in general.”

McShane believes the dedication her team put into the competition propelled them to victory. 

“The ability to engage with such a demanding endeavor, and then travel to a national competition and excel is a real testament to the commitment to learning for learning’s sake that I often encounter here at UP.”

UP Bioethics team. Photo courtesy of Patricia McShane.

After receiving the cases in January, the team spent several hours per week poring over them to develop their positions.

“I was in 18 credits this semester, and bioethics bowl was by far the largest commitment,” Regier said.

Long hours turned strangers into friends, until it was easy to see that they were closer than a team of academics.

“It’s a really robust community that we’ve formed in doing this,” McShane said.

“As a mechanical engineer, my education is pretty homogenous in terms of what I’m studying,” Nelson said. “But I love going out of the way to do this because it’s the only thing that really is a huge challenge and also affects the way I think about regular things.”

If students are interested in more information about getting involved with the team, they can contact McShane at

“As a future nurse,” Shearer said, “I feel more prepared to encounter those ethically questionable questions in a healthcare setting.”