The Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine is founded on the principle that the practice of medicine involves academic disciplines beyond the pure and applied sciences. Good medical care and research require a deep understanding of the moral principles on which decisions are made. Combining this understanding with a greater awareness of history, clinicians, researchers, and students can be more knowledgeable, insightful, humane, and effective. In addition, the Center understands that research and clinical care take place in a particular social and cultural context and for this reason medicine can also be informed by current scholarship in the humanities. To meet these interdisciplinary objectives, the Trent Center brings together scholars who use the Center as a home for research and service in ethics, medical humanities, and the history of medicine.

Through its core faculty and its network of faculty associates, the Trent Center helps to connect the larger community of scholars at Duke University interested in issues pertaining to medicine and its role in society. By creating interactions among scholars, the Trent Center serves as a catalyst both for individual academic research and for collaborations, especially in research and teaching. The Center faculty teach courses in bioethics, research ethics, and global health ethics as well as the history of medicine. It also supports the Duke Hospital Clinical Ethics Program which provides consulting and teaching for the hospital staff, medical students, residents, and faculty.