Barbara A Koenig, PhD, an anthropologist who studies contemporary biomedicine, was a core faculty member of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, and an associate professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences. She served as executive director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics from 1993 to 2002. Before coming to Stanford, she served as the West Coast Research Coordinator for The Hastings Center, a bioethics organization located in New York, and she also served on the faculty of the University of California-San Francisco. She received her undergraduate degrees in history, magna cum laude, and nursing, with distinction, from the University of Minnesota. She received her PhD in medical anthropology from the University of California-Berkeley and San Francisco joint program.
Dr. Koenig is one of a small number of anthropologists whose work focuses on topics relevant to the interdisciplinary field of bioethics. Her research focuses on two areas: end-of-life care and the ethical, social, and legal implications of the genomic sciences. Her past projects in end-of-life care have investigated topics such as how medical residents construct seriously ill patients as "dying," and the social negotiation of "routine" biomedical therapies. Her research has explored issues of multiculturalism in healthcare through the lens of end-of-life decision making, examining how the dilemmas of western bioethics are experienced in urban, inner-city American clinics and hospitals. Her empirical research in genomics has focused on the impact of testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes in families with a history of breast and ovarian cancer.