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Thu, May 18

Congratulations to Our 2017 Graduating Class

The success of the Duke Master of Arts in Bioethics & Science Policy program relies on more than the curriculum and faculty who teach it. The educational breadth and diversity of participating students is critical in a program that addresses some of the most difficult science related ethical and policy questions of our time.

“Who we admit is one of the most important aspects of our selection process,” says Michael “Buz” Waitzkin, Deputy Director of Science & Society and member of the admissions committee.

“We very much want students who hold diverse opinions on the ethical issues we consider. Many people have strongly felt divergent views and we like that, we encourage that, so long as they are open-minded and respectful of other’s opinions.”

Pictured: From left to right: Melany Cruz Burgos, Darrell White II, Isaac Weitzhandler

The 2017 spring graduating class represents one of the most diverse groups to graduate from the program since its inception in 2014. The class includes a pediatrician who has spent years practicing overseas in the developing world; a PhD candidate in the Duke Biomedical Engineering program; two Duke Law students; and a psychology undergrad from the University of Michigan.

Varied backgrounds in scientific discipline, career stage, and diversity in student body foster deep discussion on delicate issues. Yet, each student finds common ground in their passion for applying advancements in science to the benefit of society. Each are keenly interested in the complexities involved in addressing the difficult moral and ethical situations that are posed by new technologies and how those technologies affect the world.

Having graduated, their future plans diverge into a variety of careers and applications as unique as their backgrounds.

Congratulations Class of 2017!


Dr. Emily Esmaili is a practicing pediatrician with years spent treating children in the developing world. Her practicum centered on pediatric cancer patients in Tanzania under Dr. Kristen Schroeder, Duke Global Health.

Dr. Esmaili hopes to remain active in academic pediatrics and continue to teach medical students and residents on issues of global bioethics in pediatric practice; to contribute to research and policy-making in this field; and to continue working as a pediatrician and clinical ethicist in the developing world.


Darrell White, MA, considered pursuing research in psychology before finding a better fit for his interests in research, policy, and law through the Duke Master of Arts in Bioethics & Science Policy.

His practicum centered around bioethics & science policy issues in mobile health apps through the Center for Advanced Hindsight & Pattern Health Technologies. He plans to continue transitioning from research into policy and has been accepted into Cornell Law School.


Isaac Weitzhandler is nearing the completion of his PhD studies in the Duke Biomedical Engineering program. He worked alongside Congressman Bradley Byrne (R), Alabama, and taught in the Freedom Teaching Summer Fellowship as part of his summer practicum experience. His work with underserved youth helped raise ACT scores in the affected class by over three points.


Melany Cruz Burgos, JD, MA, focuses on health law and policy. Her practicum examined the role and impact of the government’s litigation via affirmative and qui tam suits on the doctor-patient relationship in the US Attorney’s General Office, NJ.

Melany will be practicing law with international law firm Willkie, Farr & Gallagher in New York City.


Bob Zhao, JD, MA, completed his masters while pursuing his law degree through the joint JD/MA program. His practicum focused on the influence of HIPAA on the information technology sector at J2 Global.

Bob will be joining Simpson, Thacher and Bartlett in Silicon Valley, splitting his time between their corporate mergers and acquisitions and technology transactions practice groups.



The Duke Master of Arts in Bioethics & Science Policy takes pride in creating a uniquely flexible program structured for a wide variety of backgrounds and aspirations. Pre-med and pre-law students looking for a gap-year option will find the program differentiates them among their peers and uniquely prepares them for influential roles in leadership. Undergraduates and mid-career professionals will build on their foundations in order to better affect the conversation and shape policy in their field.

Learn More About the Program