Faculty and Students Give Medicine & Religion Conference Accolades
The Third Annual Conference on Medicine & Religion was held in Chicago during the first week of March, 2014. The theme for the conference, “Responding to the Limits and Possibilities of the Body,” sought to address issues related to the intersection of religion and health care by inviting professionals and scholars to reflect on important questions about human embodiment.
Farr Curlin, MD, PhD (Duke University), a member of the conference advisory board, states that the conference was successful in cultivating dialogues related to interfaith views on issues in medicine, and the conference spurred collegial interaction between practitioners, scholars, and students interested in medicine and religion. “We’ve received much positive feedback, including expressions of gratitude for a national forum in which scholars and practitioners feel able to freely engage their religious commitments in wrestling with issues in medicine. The plenary sessions featuring scholars from each of the three major Abrahamic traditions exemplified, again this year, our commitment to thoughtful inter and intra-religious dialogue on pressing issues in the practices of medicine today.”
Dr. Curlin mentions that a record number of submissions were received. After a peer review process, the conference featured presentations of 88 abstracts and 20 posters. “We were pleased to see the three traditions more evenly represented than in previous years in all our paper and panel presentations.”
Health care ethics student, Rachelle Barina, PhD(c) (Saint Louis University), presented her award-winning student paper, “The Dying Body and the Body of Christ: Cultivating a Vocation for the Sick in Catholic Discussion of Assisted Suicide,” to a substantial audience in the main plenary session. Barina found the experience of the plenary sessions to be unique and enlightening, stating, “The plenary sessions involved a panel of three scholars who represented Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. During the plenaries, the three scholars had a fruitful dialogue about embodiment, medicine, and religion. They illustrated points of similarity and difference, shared stories from their traditions and experiences, and reflected on tensions and shortcomings various traditions face.”
The overall student experience was both practical and informative. Barina continues, “Students helped to review the abstract submissions for the conference. Participating in the review process helped us to understand how abstracts are selected for conferences. It also brought our attention to the characteristics that made some abstracts more successful than others.”
The conference featured meals organized around specific themes, such as “philosophy and theology,” “sharing faith and prayer with patients and their families,” and “doing research on religion and spirituality.” Dr. Curlin adds, “These meals proved very enjoyable and will likely expand and remain an integral part of the conference moving forward. The student luncheon we hosted attracted 55 students from a variety of fields, including medicine, sociology, and theology. Our hope is to build on this and our annual student essay contest to help cultivate ongoing interest in this field among our future academics and practitioners. “
Tobias Winright, PhD (Saint Louis University), a first time attendee, expressed satisfaction with the goals of the conference and student involvement. “It was exciting to see how well represented the Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics was at the Medicine & Religion conference. I was especially pleased to see several of our students actively involved in a number of ways, including presenting papers and even reviewing papers that were presented by others.” He believes that the representation of HCE students and faculty at the conference helped garner interest in the Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics PhD program and its mission. Winright is optimistic about the opportunities that future conferences will present for students and looks forward to attending next year.