Program on Medicine and Religion

Course Offerings

Course Offerings for 2021-2022 (TBD)

Courses Offered in Previous Years

Justice, Solidarity, and Global Health
CCTS 21009 (100 units)

Instructor: Daniel T. Kim, PhD Candidate

Course Description:
Global health, it is said, is “one of the great moral movements of our time.” Health inequalities around the world are staggering, as is their toll on human suffering. What does a just response entail? What moves us to be just, and why do we so often fail? What do our failures of response tell us about the moral complexities involved, and importantly, about ourselves? In this course, we will consider these questions critically in terms of a basic problem of solidarity. Solidarity rests on our capacity for other-regard—for sympathy toward another—but how do we do that for distant others who are worlds apart? Is it possible, and what are the moral dangers of assuming that we can or cannot? We will test the importance of such questions for a just global health by examining some key theories of health justice, the insights of cultural and religious studies, and the question of what moves us to be just.


Intersectionality in American Medical Ethics
CCTS 21010 (100 units)

Instructors: Caroline Anglim, PhD Candidate

Course Description:
In this course, we will investigate the history of medical ethics and how the field has been framed around universal principles and rooted in secular philosophies. We will give a hearing to the voices most often silenced through the processes and procedures of medical ethics decision-making and evaluate the social and political impacts of this silencing on particular individuals and minority groups. We will discuss issues of gender, race, and religion and investigate how those identities intersect with one another to impact discrimination, power, and privilege in modern medical ethics. We will conclude the class with an evaluation of the field as a discourse, discipline, practice, or social reform movement, thinking about issues of authority and legitimacy in the public sphere.


Christian Traditions and Medicine in the Late Modern World
CCTS 21004 / RLST 26315 (100 units)

Instructors: John D. Yoon, MD & Herbert Lin, PhD Candidate in Theology

Course Description:
What is the meaning of medicine in our contemporary world? How has it changed over time, and what are its normative conditions and challenges? What religious and spiritual resources might Christian traditions bring to bear on such questions? This course rests on the assumption that contemporary challenges in medicine stem from a moral pluralism reflecting the cultural conditions of late modernity, as well as from a growing inability to maintain clinical excellence in an increasingly complex and bureaucratic health care system. We will first examine this assumption and its sociological, historical, and theological significance. In parallel, we will engage guest speakers throughout the course who will help us comparatively explore several Christian responses to modernity and to diverse domains of medicine. Lastly, we will critically explore James Hunter’s constructive proposal of “faithful presence,” and what that might mean in the context of medicine. Our goal, ultimately, will be to reflect on the conditions and challenges of modern medicine and to appraise the historical and theological resources that the Christian traditions may offer.



Religious Perspectives on the Clinical Encounter
MEDC 30030 / RETH 30030

Instructors: John D. Yoon, MD

Course Description:
Medicine is a moral practice, and suffering, illness, and dying are among the most deeply challenging of all human experiences. It is not surprising then that religious and spiritual traditions inform the ways many patients and clinicians understand, navigate, cope with, and make decisions related to illness. These traditions are a significant source of personal identity for some clinicians and also serve as a moral framework through which groups of patients and providers address challenges in healthcare. A burgeoning literature on the religious characteristics of clinicians delineates how clinicians’ religious traditions and commitments can shape their clinical practices (Program on Medicine and Religion). Drawing from this literature and the primary course text, Hostility to Hospitality: Spirituality and Professional Socialization within Medicine (Michael Balboni, PhD & Tracy A. Balboni, MD, Oxford University Press, 2018), this course will provoke learners to consider the religious and spiritual dimensions of the clinician-patient relationship, while covering broad concepts relevant to the intersection of the clinical encounter with religion (the Abrahamic traditions of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism). Students will engage the course text’s primary argument that contemporary medicine with its secular-sacred divide is suffering from a form of collective spiritual sickness—namely, that depersonalizing, social forces through the market, technology, and legal-bureaucratic powers are reducing clinicians to tiny cogs in an unstoppable machine. This course will explore these hostilities threatening medicine and offer a path forward for the partnership of modern medicine and religion/spirituality. Guest speakers will also enrich the course by offering a personal perspective on the ways their religious traditions inform their approach to the clinical encounter.



The Making of the “Good Physician”: Virtue Ethics and the Development of Moral Character in Medicine (Scholars in Ethics and Medicine)
CCTS 21005 / MED 31005 (100 units)

Instructors: John D. Yoon, MD & Michael Hawking, MD

Course Description:
The Scholars in Ethics and Medicine program is a yearlong opportunity for students to collaborate with exemplar physician-scholars and medical ethicists to think through and critically discuss the traits required of a good health care clinician. Members of the group collaborate with invited speakers and mentors through participation in seminars, lectures, and small group dinners. The goal of the course is thus to gain a clearer picture of what constitutes the wise physician and to develop in wisdom.

The practice of medicine focuses on actions that are intended to promote health and healing, and to do so in ways that are respectful and compassionate. To be aimed at health and to be consistent with our ethical obligations, these actions need to be of a certain kind regarding the ends they pursue and the means they employ. This is to say that these actions need the virtue of practical wisdom, by which we identify the best means to achieve worthwhile ends. How we understand which ends are worthwhile and which means are best will depend on the virtues that guide not only our thoughts and motivations, but also our vision. For virtue influences not only our actions and motivations, but how we see world.  The Scholars in Ethics and Medicine will together explore deep connections between action, vision, wisdom, and virtue as they relate health and healing, in particular how wisdom and virtue are important for seeing patients as whole people, not just bodies to be fixed, in offering compassionate care, among others.