Thursday, April 12, 2007

Who are the experts in spirituality in health care?

Some very wise person once said to me that if you ever want to become a leader in a particular field, look at the credentials that the leaders in that field hold, and then go out and get that credential/degree.

As a chaplain, I am, of course, very interested in the intersection between spirituality and health care. But do I have the right credentials to be a leader in this field? It has occurred to me that many of the voices most listened to in the field are those of doctors. Should a person like myself get a medical degree then? Or are there other credentials a leader in the field can hold?

In a couple of weeks I will be going to a half-day conference on Spirituality in Health Care Education at the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania. The conference seems to be related to the U of P's Center for Spirituality and Mind,

So what kind of credentials do the people speaking at this conference hold?

Here are excerpts from the short bios of all the speakers (with the type of credential they hold in bold):

Phd in clinical psych:
Dr. Jean Kristeller received her doctorate in clinical and health psychology from Yale University in 1983. She is Professor of Psychology, and Director of the Center for the Study of Health, Religion, and Spirituality at Indiana State University. . . . Her work on the role of the physician in addressing difficult issues and on spirituality has been supported through NIH and private foundations, including the Metanexus Institute and the Fetzer Institute.

Ph.D. in folklore and folklife
David Hufford, Ph.D., has taught about religion, spirituality and health at the Penn State College of Medicine since 1974, and he won a Templeton Foundation Faith & Medicine Award in 1995. At Penn he has taught courses in spiritual belief and in alternative healing traditions since 1979. In 1992 Hufford won the Martin de la Cruz Award (for contributions to the study of traditional medicine), conferred by the Mexican Academy of Traditional Medicine at the Sixth International Congress of Traditional and Folk Medicine.

Ordained clergy and a certified clinical pastoral education supervisor
Paul Derrickson is an ordained Presbyterian minister who has served at the Hershey Medical Center [Pastoral Services dep't] since 1981 as the Associate and as Coordinator since 1995. . . . . Paul's primary focus has been developing and articulating the new role for chaplaincy in the changing health care environment ..

Physician (internist)
Gail Morrison, MD, is Vice Dean for Education and Director of the Office of Academic Programs at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

PhD (in what? sociology? folklore?)
Elizabeth R. Mackenzie, Ph.D. is a Senior Fellow in the Writing Center at the University of Pennsylvania, a Lecturer in the department of Science, Technology and Society and an Associate Fellow of the Institute on Aging, UPHS. She currently teaches courses on humanistic medicine, holistic healthcare and therapeutic writing. Dr. Mackenzie completed her doctoral dissertation on health belief systems at the University of Pennsylvania and soon after joined the Institute on Aging at the University of Pennsylvania Health System to conduct research on cultural dimensions of health and healthcare.

Physician (a radiologist with a big interest in the links between spirituality and biology)
Andrew Newberg, M.D. is an Associate Professor of Radiology at the University of Pennsylvania and is director of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Departments of Radiology and Psychiatry at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He received his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1993 and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Nuclear Medicine. Dr. Newberg has been particularly involved in the study of mystical and religious experiences as well as the more general mind/body relationship in both the clinical and research aspects of his career. He has also co-authored three books entitled, Why We Believe What We Believe: Uncovering Our Biological Need for Meaning Spirituality and Truth, Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief and The Mystical Mind: Probing the Biology of Belief that explore the relationship between neuroscience and spiritual experience. The last book received the 2000 award for Outstanding Books in Theology and the Natural Sciences presented by the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences. He currently teaches a course on Science and the Sacred in the Department of Religious Studies.

Here are the topics these folks will be speaking on:

Training Physicians to Engage Spiritual Concerns:
Jean Kristeller, Ph.D.,
Director, Center for the Study of
Health, Religion and Spirituality, Indiana State University

Spirituality in Medical School Education:
David Hufford, Ph.D., Penn State College of Medicine

Research in Pastoral Care Education:
Rev. Paul Derrickson, Penn State College of Medicine

Humanistic Medicine in Undergraduate Education:
Elizabeth Mackenzie, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Integration of Spirituality into Medical School Curriculum,
Gail Morrison, M.D., Vice Dean for Education, University of Pennsylvania

So what have we learned from this?
  • For this center/conference, at least, doctors are the leaders in the field of spirituality in medicine (and medical education)
  • Chaplains (actually just one) are involved, but they are only being looked for expertise about their own profession!!!!!!!!!!! They are not being asked to speak about spirituality for doctors, patients for medical students!
  • Some people are able to enter this field from seemingly unrelated disciplines by doing research on the topic (that is, a folklorist who writes about the role of folk beliefs in religion and in health being seen as an expert on how to bring spirituality into medical school education).
    • This path is of particular interest to me, I think. I am certainly no folkloreist, but one research interest I have long entertained (based on my experience studying the tractate of the Talmud most devoted to the laws of mourning; the third chapter of Moed Kitan) is to do a study of the texts related to mourning . . . That is not new, but this gives me the idea of perhaps giving it this sort of twist/focus -- making a study in general of how ancient traditions have understood spiritual care (to the mourning, or also to how we minister to the ill? . . . or how a person can heal ones-self with spirituality?) AND how that understanding has changed over time. . . . And, then, with perhaps the main focus of the research being inside the Jewish tradition (with a special focus on the Talmud) . . . That would open up what kind of degrees/programs I could apply to. It could be history, for example, or religious studies. . . . What I like about this is that it keeps the focus of the studies/research inside religious (esp. Jewish texts), but it also gives that work (from the git go) a very real world kind of application (ie, a popularization of the work could be something like, The Talmud's Secrets on Healing). [or, perhaps, Healing in Judaism] .. . Cool!!!
  • A Doctorate in Clinical Psych is a potential path to earning respect inside the corridors of medical education
What this discussion really orbits around is something I've started to play around -- as much as becoming a CPE supervisor is something I want to do, I am not sure it is ultimately enough. I may need one more credential beyond that to become the kind of respected voice I want to be.

Anyway, it will be fascinating for me to look back what I have written here after I have actually heard these folks speak at the conference. . Maybe I will have a totally different view then! :)

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