Director of Institute for Studies of Religion's Program on Religion & Population Health Named

Aug. 13, 2009
News Photo 4750Dr. Jeff Levin

Dr. Jeff Levin Will Serve as University Professor of Epidemiology & Population Health

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Dr. Jeff Levin has accepted a distinguished chair at Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion, where he will serve as University Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health as well as Director of ISR's Program on Religion and Population Health. Levin will also serve as Professor of Medical Humanities at Baylor. He is currently Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University Medical Center.

Levin will collaborate with ISR scholars on a number of different research initiatives and will direct ISR's efforts in global population health research. His special emphases on religion and health research will include ethnic minority, aging and Jewish populations. His presence will significantly expand ISR's interfaith efforts through his new role as Scientific Chair of the Kalsman Roundtable on Judaism and Health Research at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

An epidemiologist by training, as well as a religious scholar and gerontologist, Levin's academic research and writing beginning in the 1980s pioneered the study of religion, spirituality, and health. He has over 150 scholarly publications, mostly on the instrumental functions of religion for physical and mental health, general well-being and aging. He is known for his interdisciplinary approach to this subject, as evidenced by articles published in sociology, psychology, anthropology, biology, gerontology, religious studies, pastoral care, psychiatry, family practice, health services, public health and integrative medicine journals. He has written or edited seven books, including God, Faith, and Health and the forthcoming Divine Love: Perspectives from the World's Religious Traditions.

"More than any other scholar, Jeff Levin has provided highly objective and corrective assessments of the religion and health field over the last two decades," Dr. Stephen Post, director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University Medical Center, said. "The amazing thing about him is that unlike many modern-day social scientists, he is a deep thinker when it comes to the philosophy underlying his areas of research. This includes an abiding interest in how various religions have conceptualized divine love at the theological level, and in how they have distorted it in the form of group egoism. Together with the other extraordinary scholars already in place in the Institute for Studies in Religion, the appointment of Jeff Levin makes Baylor the finest research university in religion and social science in the United States today."

Levin was recruited by Baylor's ISR under terms of its strategic plan approved by the University in 2008, which authorized funds to recruit several extremely distinguished scholars. "Levin's appointment, along with that of Philip Jenkins, sends a powerful message that great scholars are increasingly attracted to Baylor," Dr. Rodney Stark, co-director of ISR, said. "We have reached the point in social scientific studies of religion, where coming to Baylor is to become part of the best program in the world."

"Coming to Baylor is a tremendous opportunity and a tremendous challenge," Levin said. "ISR is the preeminent academic center in the world for social and policy research on religion, and I'm thrilled to establish a public health presence at the Institute. There are so many world-class people here, and I'm excited beyond words to get to be a part of this.

"The horizons here at Baylor are unlimited and I sense a real groundswell of interest in biomedical and public health research. I'm especially committed to helping this larger initiative move forward, with the uniquely faith-based perspective that Baylor can bring to bear. I expect big things to be happening here, and I'm truly honored to have been invited to contribute. This is the highlight of my professional career."

"It's not often that one meets an individual who has founded an entirely new field of knowledge that has profoundly enriched both science and society," said Dr. Larry Dossey, author of 11 books exploring the role of spirituality and consciousness in healing, including the New York Times bestseller Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine. "Dr. Jeff Levin is such a person, having established, almost single-handedly, the field now called the epidemiology of religion. By affiliating with the Institute for Studies of Religion, Jeff -- and the institute -- will be poised to make even greater contributions to this important field. At a time when our society, our world, is desperate for meaning and direction, nothing could be more important."

Levin holds an A.B. in religion and in sociology from Duke University, an M.P.H. from the University of North Carolina School of Public Health, and a Ph.D. in Preventive Medicine and Community Health from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. He has chaired the National Institutes of Health's Working Group on Quantitative Methods in Alternative Medicine, has served as a member of the Extended Faculty of the Institute of Noetic Sciences and on the editorial boards of nine peer-reviewed journals. In 2002, he was elected a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America.

He has lectured throughout the world, and his research has been featured in many newspapers and magazines, including the Washington Post, USA Today, Newsday, JAMA, Modern Maturity, Tikkun, Moment, Spirituality and Health, in cover stories in Time, Readers' Digest and Macleans, and on national radio and television, including NPR, PBS and CBN.

Levin is married to Dr. Lea Steele, a neuroepidemiologist and human ecologist and graduate of the University of Texas School of Public Health. Steele also will join Baylor as research professor in the Institute of Biomedical Studies.

Contact: Jill Scoggins, Assistant Vice President for Media Communications, 254-710-1964

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