Baylor Faith and Culture Symposium Will Focus on Dignity and Health Care

Oct. 21, 2010

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Human Dignity and the Future of Health Care will be the theme of the 2010 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture, to be presented by Baylor University's Institute for Faith and Learning on Thursday, Oct. 28, through Saturday, Oct. 30, on the Baylor campus.

The symposium will include presentations by nearly 100 speakers, including health care providers, social workers, economists, pre-medical students, legal scholars, medical missionaries, historians, philosophers and theologians from all over the United States as well as Canada, Great Britain and Africa.

The recent debate about health care reform in the United States illustrates that political, economic, social and moral considerations about health care often are isolated from one another, leading to a discussion that is compartmentalized, said Dr. Darin H. Davis, director of the Institute for Faith and Learning and assistant professor of philosophy at Baylor.

Arguments about health care too often have been removed from considerations about human dignity, the moral status accorded to all persons.

"Our symposium seeks to gather people from a variety of academic disciplines and health professions to think together about the future of health care," Davis said. "What are the proper aims of medical research and technology? How do we care for the poorest among us? How do we understand illness and death? How do we educate men and women to become good doctors?

"In the midst of sweeping scientific advances and social change, there is a need for Christians to think faithfully about the dignity of the human person and what that implies," he said.

The symposium will feature a professor of preventive medicine, an epidemiologist and religion scholar, a Franciscan friar who also is an internist and has written about end-of-life decision-making and spirituality in medicine, a founding member of the President's Council on Bioethics, a law professor who has written about physician-assisted suicide, an author who has written about how belief systems in African communities contribute to health and an associate professor emeritus of philosophy who has written about her chronic progressive debilitating disease and the relationship between health care professionals and patients.

Most sessions will be at Bill Daniel Student Center, 1311 S. Fifth St., with check-in in the foyer of the second floor. Some meals and presentations will be in Cashion Academic Center, 1400 S. Fourth St. Visitor parking will be behind Bill Daniel Student Center and in front of Cashion Academic Center.

Registration is $175; student registration is $75. Both registrations permit entry to all conference events. Current Baylor faculty, staff and students may attend all conference activities for free except for meals. Registration is required only by Baylor attendees who are presenting or wishing to dine.

For questions about registration or the conference, call (254)-710-4805 or email For

general conference information, visit:


• Elias Bongmba, the Harry and Hazel Chavanne Chair in Christian Theology and professor of religious studies at Rice University. His scholarly interests combine his study of African religions and his research in theology. His third book, "Facing a Pandemic: The African Church and the Crisis of AIDS," addresses the HIV/AIDS crisis and argues that the image of God challenges religious communities in Africa to scale up the fight against HIV/AIDS at the local and national level through an ethic of love and compassion.

• Toyin Falola, the Frances Higginbotham Nalle Centennial Professor in History and a distinguished teaching professor at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a fellow of the Historical Society of Nigeria and a fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters. He is the co-editor of the "Journal of African Economic History," series editor of "Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora" and series editor of the "Culture and Customs of Africa" by Greenwood Press. He is co-editor of "Health Knowledge and Belief Systems in Africa," which is about the understandings of health and illness in the communities of Africa and how African belief systems contribute to health.

• Paul J. Griffiths, Warren Professor of Catholic Theology at Duke Divinity School. With research interests in Catholic philosophical theology, philosophical and political questions arising from religious diversity, Augustinian thought, and Gupta-period Indian Buddhist thought, he is a prolific writer and commentator on contemporary culture. His most recent books include "Lying: An Augustinian Theology of Duplicity," "The Vice of Curiosity: An Essay on Intellectual Appetite" and "Intellectual Appetite: A Theological Grammar."

• Jeff Levin, university professor of epidemiology and population health, professor of medical humanities and director of the program on religion and population health in the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. An epidemiologist and religious scholar, he also serves as adjunct professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical Center and as scientific chair of the Kalsman Roundtable on Judaism and Health Research at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Notable among his many articles and books are "God, Faith, and Health: Exploring the Spirituality-Healing Connection" and "Divine Love: Perspectives from the World's Religious Traditions."

• Gilbert Meilaender, Richard and Phyllis Duesenberg Professor of Christian Ethics and chair of the department of theology at Valparaiso University. He is a fellow of the Hastings Center and in 2002 was named by President George W. Bush to be a founding member of the President's Council on Bioethics. His books include "Body, Soul, and Bioethics" and "Bioethics: A Primer for Christians." He recently co-edited "The Oxford Handbook of Theological Ethics."

• Stephen Post, professor of preventive medicine, head of the division of medicine in society, and director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University. In addition to his work in the medical humanities, he is engaged in the study of altruism, love and compassion in the integrative context of scientific research, philosophy and religious thought. He is president of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love established in July 2001 with support from the Templeton Foundation. He is the author of "Unlimited Love: Altruism, Compassion, and Service" and "Altruism & Health: Perspectives from Empirical Research." He is co-author of "Why Good Things Happen to Good People: The Exciting New Science That Proves the Link Between Doing Good and Living a Longer, Happier, Healthier Life."

• Margaret Somerville, founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law and the Samuel Gale Professor of Law at McGill University. She has been active worldwide in the development of bioethics and in the questions of the legal and ethical aspects of medicine and science. She has received international recognition as a speaker at numerous conferences on the legal and ethical issues of science and society. In 2004, she was named the first recipient of the UNESCO Avicenna Prize for Ethics in Science. Her books include "Death Talk: The Case Against Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide," "The Ethical Canary: Science, Society and the Human Spirit" and "The Ethical Imagination: Journeys of the Human Spirit."

• Daniel Sulmasy, Kilbride-Clinton Professor of Medicine and Ethics in the department of medicine and Divinity School, and associate director of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics in the department of medicine at the University of Chicago. A Franciscan friar, internist, and ethicist, his research interests encompass both theoretical and empirical investigations of the ethics of end-of-life decision-making, ethics education and spirituality in medicine. In addition to his work as teacher and scholar, he continues to practice medicine part time as a member of the university faculty practice. He is the author "The Healer's Calling," "Methods in Medical Ethics," "The Rebirth of the Clinic" and "A Balm for Gilead." He is a member of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.

• John Swinton, chair in divinity and religious studies and professor in practical theology and pastoral care at King's College, University of Aberdeen. He is the founder of the Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability. Trained as a nurse, he worked in the field of mental health and learning disabilities before serving as a hospital chaplain. Among his books are "Resurrecting the Person: Friendship and the Care of People with Mental Health Problems" and an edited volume with Brian Brock, "Theology, Disability and the New Genetics: Why Science Needs the Church."

• S. Kay Toombs, associate professor emeritus of philosophy at Baylor University. Diagnosed in 1973 with multiple sclerosis, her writings explore her firsthand experience of chronic progressive debilitating disease in order to reflect on issues relating to the experience of illness and disability, the phenomenology of the body, the experience of disability, the care of the chronically ill, the challenges of incurable illness and the relationship between health care professionals and patients. Her highly-praised book, "The Meaning of Illness: A Phenomenological Account of the Different Perspectives of Physician and Patient," has been translated into Chinese and Japanese. She is editor of "The Handbook of Phenomenology and Medicine" and co-editor of "Disability: The Social, Political and Ethical Debate and Chronic Illness: From Experience to Policy."

Contact: Terry Goodrich, Assistant Director of Media Communications, (254) 710-3321

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