Retired Professor To Lecture On Living With An Incurable Disease

Oct. 13, 2008

by Jaime Bates, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805

Dr. Kay Toombs will lecture on "Living at the Boundary: Healing and Incurable Illness from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 15, in room D109 of the Baylor Science Building on the Baylor campus. The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is part of the Medical Humanities Annual Lecture.

Toombs, Associate Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Baylor University, is an internationally acclaimed expert on the philosophy of medicine. She received her masters and doctorate in Philosophy from Rice University, and another masters in Philosophy from Baylor. She also received her bachelors summa cum laude from Baylor, where she was a University Scholar. At Baylor, she developed the first medical humanities course, a senior level interdisciplinary seminar, "Literary and Philosophical Perspectives in Medicine."

Toombs was the first recipient of the Edward Godwin Ballard Prize in Phenomenology awarded by the Center for the Advanced Research in Phenomenology for the most outstanding book in phenomenological research. She was as a recipient of the Study Project in Phenomenology of the Body award for Original Descriptive Research in the Phenomenology of the Body.

Toombs is the author of "The Meaning of Illness," which has been translated into Chinese and Japanese, the editor of "The Handbook of Phenomenology and Medicine," and coeditor of "Chronic Illness: From Experience to Policy." Her latest book, "Disability: The Social, Political and Ethical Debate," which she co-authored with Drs. Robert Baird and Stuart Rosenbaum is to be published later this year.

In her writing and lectures, Toombs said she combines her philosophical training with her own experience of incurable neurological disease, Multiple Sclerosis, to reflect on issues related to the experience of illness and disability, the care of the chronically ill, end-of-life care, the challenges of incurable illness and the relationship between healthcare professionals and patients.

"I have thought a lot about the meaning of illness and disability and how best to respond to the challenges of chronic illness where a cure of the disease is not a possibility," Toombs said. "My reflections have now been further sharpened by the experience of sharing the last six months of my husband's life after he was diagnosed with cancer."

Toombs said that she wants attendees to recognize that they can be a catalyst for healing, whether they healthcare professionals, family members, friends or other caregivers.

"I believe that these reflections have implications not only for medical practice and the care of the sick, but for the ways in which we ourselves respond to the existential challenges posed by illness, disability and death," Toombs said.

The Medical Humanities Annual Lecture was started in 2006 with the goal of presenting a more humanistic way of looking at medicine. For more information contact the medical humanities department at 710-2065.

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