Ruth Gaare Bernheim

  • Chair, Department of Public Health Sciences, School of Medicine
  • Co-Director, The Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life
  • Professor of Public Health Sciences
  • Professor of Medicine
  • Professor of Family Medicine

Ruth Gaare Bernheim, J.D., M.P.H., is chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences in the School of Medicine, as well as co-director of the Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life, at the University of Virginia. She is the founding director of the Master of Public Health Program at the University of Virginia and teaches courses on public health law, ethics and policy. She currently serves as chair of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Ethics Subcommittee; as a member of the National Board of Public Health Examiners; and as past-president of the Virginia Public Health Association. She is co-director of the ethics committee of the Public Health Leadership Society and works with members on the Public Health Code of Ethics. In this capacity, she has given numerous presentations at national conferences on the ethical dimensions of public health practice, including public health research.

Gaare Bernheim teaches courses in the Medical School, Law School, and College on public health law and policy, including the required fourth-year medical school course on health policy. She is co-director of the new Certificate Program in Public Health Sciences for Graduate Medical Education and recently led university-wide efforts to develop the undergraduate Global Public Health Minor.

Gaare Bernheim works on numerous community public health projects at the local, state, and national level, and serves on the national board of the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research (APTR) and the governing board of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. As co-director of ethics for the Public Health Leadership Society, she also works with public health leaders in practice across the country on ethical and legal education, including developing educational modules for the CDC's Public Health Law Program. In addition, she was a faculty consultant on the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH)’s Model Curriculum on Public Health Ethics, and previous chair of the Ethics Section SPIG of the American Public Health Association (APHA).

Her research interests focus on ethics, law and public health policy, health disparities and public-health community needs assessment.

Gaare Bernheim previously was on the faculty of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins Bioethics Institute, where her projects included a Robert Wood Johnson-funded grant with the Maryland Attorney General's Office on End-of-Life Care and a PEW-funded grant on Managed Care and Public Health. She also served on the Johns Hopkins Hospital Ethics Committee and the Johns Hopkins Health Care Scientific and Benefits Assessment Committee.

Gaare Bernheim’s education includes a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, a master's of public health degree from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, certificates in mediation from Boston University and the Harvard School of Public Health, and coursework as a research scholar at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics.


  • J.D.
    University of Virginia School of Law
  • B.A.
    College of Notre Dame of Maryland
  • M.P.H.
    Johns Hopkins University


Recent Publications

"Principled Leadership in Public Health: Integrating Ethics into Public Health Practice and Management" (with A. Melnick), J. Pub. Health Mgmt. and Prac. 14(4), 361 (2008).

"Public Health Ethics: Public Justification and Public Trust" (with J. F. Childress), Bundesgeusndheitsbl-Gesundheitsforsch-Gesundheitsschutz 2 (2008).

"Ethics in Public Health Practice and Management" in Novick et al eds. Public Health Administration 2d. ed. (Jones and Bartlett 2008).

"Codes of Ethics in Public Health" (with J.C. Thomas) Encyclopedia of Public Health (Elsevier, 2008).

“Ethics and the Practice of Public Health” (with P. Neiburg & R. Bonnie), in Goodman et al eds., Law in Public Health Practice 2d. ed (Oxford University Press, 2006).

"Beyond the Liberal and Communitarian Impasse: A Framework and Vision for Public Health" (with J. F. Childress), 55:5 Florida Law Review 1191 (Dec. 2003).

"Public Health Ethics: The Voices of Practitioners" J. L. Med. & Ethics, Special Supplement to Vol 31:4 104 (Winter 2003).

"Public Health Ethics: Mapping the Terrain" (with others), 30: 2 J. L. Med. & Ethics 170 (Summer 2002).

Current Courses

No courses were found for this instructor.

All Courses

Germs, Guns and Lead: Public Health Ethics and Law