Program on Medicine and Religion

Faculty Scholars Program

Faculty Scholars Program

The Program on Medicine and Religion Faculty Scholars Program is designed to provide essential infrastructure for the spiritual renewal of the profession of medicine. Its long term vision is to initiate a systematic study of questions concerning the spiritual lives of physicians, using a faculty development program as the vehicle. The projects encompassed by this vision are expected to focus attention on the spiritual decline of the medical profession, deploy innovative empirical and theoretical research to understand the nature, causes, and feasible remedies for that decline, and leverage the current widespread dissatisfaction within the profession as a fulcrum for spiritual renewal.

The first phase of the program’s vision was carried out in 2012-2015 with grant support from the John Templeton Foundation. The program funded 60% FTE plus $20,500 in research and training funds for two cohorts of four faculty scholars, for two years each. The eight scholars were to investigate physician spirituality descriptively, taking the spiritual pulse of the profession, and to ask whether the current state of dissatisfaction among physicians can be described properly as spiritual. They were selected to ensure a diversity of robust methodological approaches to the questions.

Three scholars, Drs. Michael Balboni, Elena Salmoirago-Blotcher, and Aasim Padela, are pursuing various forms of empirical research. They are assessing the significance of physicians’ religious and spiritual characteristics in giving care to advanced cancer patients and to those in intensive care units, as well as the nature of religion-directed workplace discrimination and the influence of Islamic religiosity on physician practices. Dr. John Hardt is testing the diagnostic question by implementing a longitudinal pilot of a professional formation program for medical students informed by his research on the spiritual tradition of the Society of Jesus and its potential relevance to the profession of medicine. Two scholars, Drs. Lydia Dugdale and Warren Kinghorn, are exploring the diagnostic question through theological lenses, in one case, examining a range of theological virtues pertinent to physicians in the care of terminal patients, and in the other case, working out a psychologically-informed theology of human flourishing that can speak to the needs of physicians. Drs. Amy DeBaets and Abraham Nussbaum are providing, respectively, a historical and a literary lens: one is working to describe the religious, spiritual, and philosophic origins of osteopathic medicine, as well as their contemporary institutional instantiations, while the other is addressing through novels, among other devices, the relationship between a culture’s account of death and the alienation experienced by physicians.

Over the three years of this first phase, our scholars have collectively produced 48 scholarly articles and a book, with three more books currently under contract and three more in progress. They have also given 82 presentations at various academic conferences, community workshops, and medical schools.

Our hope is that in subsequent phases, scholars will build on the findings of the first phase in order to test interventions designed to foster spiritual renewal among medical professionals, and later, to focus on the implementation and dissemination of sustainable and transformative programs.