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 Spring Seminar Series!

Friday, April 23rd
12-1pm CST

Spiritual Care During a Pandemic

Polly Toner, MDiv
University of Chicago

Friday, April 23rd, 2021
12-1pm CST
This event will take place virtually over Zoom.

Please register here to attend:

About the Speaker
Polly Toner graduated from the University of Southern California’s School of Occupational Therapy in 1996 with a minor in Gerontology. While serving as an OT, she went on to complete her MDiv at the University of Chicago in 2007, and was ordained in the Presbyterian Church: USA in 2011. Polly has had the privilege of congregational work in both the Presbyterian and United Methodist traditions. Combining her clinical and ministerial backgrounds, she has pursued work as a heath care chaplain, completing Clinical Pastoral Education at Northwestern Medicine and board certification through the Association of Professional Chaplains. She enjoyed time as a chaplain at Chicago Read Mental Health Center and Amita St. Joseph Hospital Chicago before joining the Spiritual Care Department at University of Chicago Medicine in 2016. Polly currently serves at UCM working nights and focusing on the trauma center. However, in response to COVID, her role changed. What does Spiritual Care look like during a pandemic? How has COV-19 impacted the everyday life of a community and institution already facing extensive trauma? We are still learning. 

Spring 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, April 23rd, 12-1pm
“Spiritual Care During a Pandemic”
Polly Toner, MDiv
University of Chicago

Friday, May 14th, 12-1pm
Dr. Kristine Culp, PhD, MDiv
University of Chicago

Friday, May 28th, 12-1pm
“The Allocation of Scarce Medical Resources: Evaluating Ethical Frameworks with Empirical Methods”
Will Parker, MD, MS
University of Chicago