Program on Medicine and Religion

Welcome to the Program on Medicine and Religion

The Program on Medicine and Religion at the University of Chicago is a leading forum for scholarship, discourse and education at the intersection of medicine and religion. The aims of this Program are to discover what shape contemporary medicine might take in different faith contexts, to foster interfaith dialogue about medicine and religion, and to encourage and advise those patients, practitioners, and communities that are currently seeking to re-invigorate the spiritual and religious dimensions of health care. If successful, this work will help patients to make medical choices that are better informed by their own (and others’) religious traditions, and help them to interpret their medical experiences in the light of spirituality and faith. This work will help health care professionals to re-imagine and re-engage medicine as a faithful practice—to experience their work as intrinsically rewarding and fulfilling. This work will also help to clarify how health care systems can better accommodate the particular needs of diverse religious communities.

The Program pursues these above aims through scholarship, training, and education. The Program promotes scholarship regarding all aspects of the intersection of medicine and religion, from the clinical encounter between patients and clinicians to broader societal and policy concerns. While open to all the diverse religious and spiritual traditions that can inform medicine, the Program primarily promotes scholarship and education related to the three Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The point of this focus is not to be exclusionary, but to facilitate a more robust interfaith dialogue among these traditions that share so much in common, and to pursue a greater depth of scholarship than might be possible were the Program to attempt to embrace all the world’s many faith traditions equally. The Program also seeks to train and educate those who will expand the range and depth of this field, to develop educational resources through conferences, workshops/seminars and formal coursework, and to create venues that bring together academics and laypersons, scientists and scholars of religion, health care professionals and members of the public, to consider what medicine might look like were it to be fully informed by attention to its religious and spiritual dimensions.

The Program originated as a collaborative effort involving the Department of Medicine and the Divinity School. The Program was launched January 2009 by cofounders and former UChicago faculty, Dr. Farr Curlin (Duke University) and Dr. Daniel Sulmasy (Georgetown University) and was previously led by Dr. Aasim Padela (Medical College of Wisconsin). The Program on Medicine and Religion at the University of Chicago is a sponsoring institution for the annual National Conference on Medicine and Religion. Today this Program is being currently led by Dr. John Yoon, and has benefited from grant support by the John Templeton Foundation, the Hyde Park Institute, and a generous legacy gift from Dr. and Mrs. Hugh Hazenfield.

Upcoming Events

Please join us for the
Program on Medicine and Religion
2021 Winter Seminar Series!

Friday, January 22nd
12-1pm CST

Living, Dying, and Doctoring in the Age of Covid

Dr. Lydia Dugdale, MD, MAR
Columbia University

Friday, January 22nd, 2021
12-1pm CST
This event will take place virtually over Zoom.

The sirens in New York City during the worst of the COVID pandemic suggested that the wail of death was the only certainty. Yet in Spring 2020, death itself seemed to take the world by surprise, as if twenty-first-century medicine had somehow dispensed with death for good. Columbia University physician and ethicist Dr. Lydia Dugdale will recount the scene during the pandemic’s first New York surge and propose instead the revival of a medieval model for the preparation for death. Speaking in part from her new book The Lost Art of Dying: Reviving Forgotten Wisdom, Dugdale suggests that living deliberately is the best way to prevent death from catching us off guard.

Speaker Bio
Lydia Dugdale, MD, MAR (ethics), is the Dorothy L. and Daniel H. Silberberg Associate Professor of Medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and Director of the Center for Clinical Medical Ethics. She also serves as Associate Director of Clinical Ethics at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. A practicing internist, Dugdale moved to Columbia in 2019 from Yale University, where she previously served as Associate Director of the Program for Biomedical Ethics. Her scholarship focuses on end-of-life issues, medical ethics, and the doctor-patient relationship. She edited Dying in the Twenty-First Century (MIT Press, 2015) and is author of The Lost Art of Dying Well (HarperOne, 2020), a popular press book on the preparation for death. A native Midwesterner, Dugdale attended medical school at the University of Chicago. She went on to complete her residency training at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Winter 2021 Seminar Series:
Where is God in a Pandemic? Religion, Ethics, and Medicine in an Age of Uncertainty

After a year of enormous social upheaval in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Program on Medicine and Religion will create a space for scholarship, reflection, and (virtual) community discussion about the new and changing context of religion and ethics in health care. We will hear from leaders of religious communities, research scholars, and members of the medical community who are invested in understanding what patients and their families need, what insights their traditions or communities can offer, and what post-pandemic futures they imagine for the place of spirituality in medical care.

Friday, January 22nd, 12-1pm
“Living, Dying, and Doctoring in the Age of Covid”
Dr. Lydia Dugdale, MD, MAR (ethics)
Columbia University

Friday, February 12th, 12-1pm
“Duty and Justice in Jewish Bioethics: The Questions of Vaccines in Pandemics”
Dr. Laurie Zoloth, PhD, RN
University of Chicago

Thursday, March 4th, 12-1pm
“Without the Camp: Leprosy and Public Health Debates in 19th-century America”
Mark Lambert, PhD candidate
University of Chicago