April 7, 2003

Conference to examine faith, healing & health care

By Elaine Justice

The roles that religion and faith play in the process of healing and health care will be the focus of a public conference at Emory that also marks the culmination of a year’s exploration of the topic by faculty and students.

“New Perspectives on Health and Healing: Can Science and Religion Work Together?” will be held April 11–12 in the Dobbs Center’s Winship Ballroom.
Featured guests include three nationally known doctors who explore the role of religion and spirituality in healing, including:

• Lori Alvord, surgeon and author of The Scalpel and the Silver Bear: The First Navajo Woman Surgeon Combines Western Medicine and Traditional Healing.

• Richard Selzer, surgeon and author of The Doctor Stories and the Exact Location of the Soul.

• Sherwin Nuland, surgeon, medical historian and author of How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter and the memoir Lost in America: A Journey with My Father.
Alvord will deliver the opening address, on “Ceremony Medicine: A Navajo Philosophy of Healing,” at 7:30 p.m., Friday, April 11. The first Navajo woman surgeon, Alvord is an assistant professor of surgery and associate dean of minority and student affairs at Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H.

The conference continues from 9 a.m.–3 p.m. on Saturday, April 12, with panel presentations, lunch with the panelists, table discussions and a wrapup session.

“As a research university and medical center with a rich mixture of sciences, professional schools, liberal arts and humanities, Emory is in a natural position to discuss and explore this topic of healers and healing,” said biology Instructor Arri Eisen, director of Emory’s Program in Science and Society, which is coordinating the conference.

The conference is the capstone of a yearlong investigation of religion, faith and health that began last fall with a faculty seminar that drew professors from medicine, the sciences, religion, theology and history. The study continues this semester with an undergraduate senior seminar.

Eisen, along with Gary Laderman, associate professor of religion, and P.V. Rao, associate professor of physics, have spearheaded the effort to bring together different facets of the Emory community to examine the issue.

During the conference, panelists and participants will discuss several core ideas that have come out of the seminars, such as the training of health professionals and how personal religious beliefs affect their practice; belief and the role it plays (or does not play) in healing; the history and future of Western medicine; defining health, illness and healing across cultures, countries and societies; and the role organized religion plays in achieving good health.

The conference is free and open to the public. For more information or to register online, visit www.emory.edu/COLLEGE/scienceandsociety/hnh.htm or contact Ben Miller at 404-712-1182.