Program on Medicine and Religion

John D. Yoon, MD

Program Director

John D. Yoon, MD is Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago, and Visiting Kern Research Scholar for Physician Character Development and Professional Formation at the Kern Institute (Medical College of Wisconsin). Dr. Yoon has been with the Program on Medicine and Religion since its inception in 2009. He is an academic hospitalist, clinical ethicist, and medical educator with research interests in the fields of virtue ethics, moral psychology, and character development and professional formation in medical education. He was a co-investigator on the Project on the Good Physician, a longitudinal study of medical students funded by the New Science of Virtues Project at the University of Chicago. He maintains a faculty affiliation with the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, Center for Health and the Social Sciences (CHeSS), and the Bucksbaum Institute for Clinical Excellence. His area of scholarship has addressed professional identity formation of physicians, physician well-being, and the role of religion/spirituality in shaping the moral and professional formation of physicians-in-training. Dr. Yoon has been deeply involved in generating new educational initiatives at the University that promote the study of Religion, Ethics, and Medicine to Medical Students, Divinity Students, undergraduates in the College, and other residents and trainees in health care.

Dr. Yoon’s long-term vision for the Program is to establish a new field of Medical Education Chaplaincy ultimately through the development of a Chaplain Scholars Training Program. These “medical education” chaplains would be trained to provide spiritual care and cultivate the whole-person flourishing of clinicians in health care who are training to care for others, particularly in light of the existential challenges of clinician burnout and moral distress in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He is in the process of being ordained as a minister and Spiritual Director to practicing clinicians, students, and resident trainees in health care. Toward that end, Dr. Yoon has completed a four-year certificate program of study and Internship in Spiritual Direction in the Ignatian Tradition (Society of Jesus, Jesuits Midwest Province). 

For those in health care who are interested in exploring sessions of Spiritual Direction on matters related to vocational discernment, medicine-as-a-calling, well-being and human flourishing in the practice of medicine, Dr. Yoon may be contacted for an initial consultation at:

Bharat Ranganathan

Assistant Director & Visiting Scholar

Bharat Ranganathan, PhD is currently the Beamer-Schneider Fellow in Ethics in the Department of Religious Studies at Case Western University. Starting in Fall 2022, he will be the Brooks Professor of Religion and Social Justice in the Religious Studies Program at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. Bharat’s research and teaching interests focus on how religious ethics and moral and political philosophy bear on problems in bioethics in both clinical and public health contexts, including shared decision-making under conditions of diversity and poverty as a barrier to care.

Mariana Cuceu, MD, MPH, PhD(c)

Visiting Scholar

Dr. Cuceu received her medical degree from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Iuliu Hatieganu (Cluj Napoca, Romania). She is currently pursuing a PhD focusing on the intersection of medicine, religion and ethics with the University of Medicine and Pharmacy Gr. T. Popa Iasi, Romania. She earned an MPH focused on Health Policy and Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and she currently teaches clinical skills with Kaplan Medical while pursuing research to improve the clinical communication and interpersonal skills of medical doctors. In that respect, she is particularly interested on how educators can foster empathy and compassion in physicians, and sustain the humanity of the doctor-patient relationship in contemporary medicine. With respect to patients, Dr. Cuceu is interested in exploring how religious faith supports their responses to suffering and limitations brought on by illness and disability.

In her community Dr. Cuceu serves as President and co-founder of Saint Paraskeva Orthodox Charity, whose primary mission is to provide aid to orphaned and ill children. A former member of the Romanian National Olympic Team of Chemistry, Dr. Cuceu is the recipient of several awards, including a top 100 “Eastern European Students Award“ (Washington, D.C.) and the “John and Grace Nuveen International Award” (UIC) for excellence in school performance and dedication in community service and public health.

Rachel Carbonara

PMR Teaching Fellow 2022-2023

Rachel Carbonara is a Doctoral Candidate in Anthropology and Sociology of Religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Her research examines energy healing practices and holistic medical philosophies in the modern United States. She is also Associate Producer of the Harvard Divinity School podcast, Ministry of Ideas, and is working on a series of episodes to be released in the spring of 2022 that examine the relationship between religion and science.

Halley Haruta

PMR Research Fellow 2022-2023

Halley is a second-year Master of Divinity student at the University of Chicago. Previously, she was an undergraduate at Smith College, where she studied religion and psychology. Her research at the PMR examines scrupulosity, a subset of obsessive-compulsive disorder, from both psychological and theological perspectives. She is interested in the role of caregivers to individuals with scrupulosity, as well as the broader ethical and theological implications of this disorder.

Ashley Aguilar

PMR Research Fellow 2022-2023

Ashley Aguilar is a rising second-year Master of Public Policy student pursuing a certificate in health administration and policy (GPHAP). Her research interests are in human flourishing, early child education, and religious coping. She is interested in the potential for research in these areas to reduce inequality of opportunity. During the Summer of 2022 as an Arthur Quern fellow and throughout the 2023-2023 academic year as a PMR fellow, she is pursuing research that aims to characterize the determinants of human flourishing among residents of Harvey, IL and the extent to which religious or spiritual practice is utilized to cope with prevalent stressors.

Kunal Kanaparti

PMR Research Fellow 2022-2023

Kunal Kanaparti graduated from Harvard University in 2021. As an aspiring physician, he hopes both to practice medicine in a clinical setting and to study the ethical considerations of implementing new medical technologies and standards of care, with a targeted focus on advocating for patient rights and autonomy in healthcare settings; he aims to use his experience as a clinical physician to better understand the relationships that patients have with healthcare systems, so that he may contribute to implementing actionable solutions that help to preserve patient autonomy. Kunal also has strong interests in exploring how to optimize the patient-physician relationship and, relatedly, learning how physicians can learn to best serve patient interests.