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Theology and Medicine
Team-taught by a member of the Yale Medical School faculty and a member of the Yale Divinity School faculty, this course explores the challenges of contemporary medicine from a theological perspective. It considers theological resources relevant for the practice of medicine and it considers the practice of medicine as a resource for deepening theological reflection. Topics of traditional interest in both fields —suffering, illness, healing and well being—are addressed in interdisciplinary terms. The focus of the course is not on chaplaincy ministry but on a conversation among those who reflect on the application of physiological science and religious wisdom to human need. Key to this conversation is recognition that doctors and theologians share a need for their own share of the care and meaning they study to provide for others. An important feature of the course will be several “field trip” experiences and class meetings on the Yale New Haven Hospital campus. Students will attend rounds with medical teams, explore laboratory settings, and meet with various faculty who practice in settings where the spirit and body intersect, through cooperation with the Program for Medicine, Spirituality, and Religion at Yale Medical School.
The objectives of the course are that students who complete it will:
demonstrate understanding of theological themes relevant to the practice of medicine
demonstrate familiarity with areas of current medical practice which raise issues for theological reflection
demonstrate understanding of the perspectives of several prominent writers and scholars working in this area
develop a personal perspective on the relation of theology and medicine and develop it in a sustained written reflection
No background expected
This course will operate on a colloquium/seminar model. Attendance and participation are crucial in a class of this type. Students are expected to keep up with assigned readings, attend all class sessions, and participate actively in discussions. More than one class absence (including absence from the medical rounds) will lower the grade for class participation. Four times during the course of the semester you will submit a reflection (maximum 500 words) arising out of one of the readings for that week. There should be some summary of what you understand to be the primary content of the reading, and also some interpretive comment—focusing on a puzzlement concerning some claim or argument in the reading, a counter argument, or an appreciative extension of the approach represented in the readings. It is expected that your reading report will be the source for comments to be shared in class. These papers will be graded satisfactory/unsatisfactory. Satisfactory, on time completion of these assignments, along with regular attendance and average levels of class participation will assure a class participation grade of HP+. That grade can be raised by strong participation in class discussion and/or by submitting additional reading reports (a maximum of 2 in addition to the 4 required). All reports must be submitted by the class meeting for which the relevant reading is assigned. .
30% of final grade.
Class leadership and reflection paper:
a. Each student will serve as a co-leader for class discussion one week in the semester. The two students assigned a given week will work together to plan and coordinate the discussion. In preparation for that discussion, each will prepare a reflection paper (1000 words maximum) on an aspect of that week’s reading, and will submit that paper to the instructors by email, no later than 5:00 p.m. the day before the class meets. Each student will receive a grade for their individual paper and another grade for the class discussion leadership (both members of the team receive the same grade). The two grades are averaged to give one grade for this assignment
b. Each student will submit a short paper (1200 words maximum) due on week four, which reflects on the first experience of medical rounds and the readings to date in the course.
30% of final grade.
7500 words minimum, 10,000 words maximum. Each student will write a final paper, on a topic of their choosing. The paper should normally fit one of the following three patterns: a) choose a theological topic or issue (for example, the Holy Spirit, original sin, resurrection, salvation, Christology) and illustrate how this topic might be interpreted or reconstructed in dialogue with the medical perspectives engaged in the course, b) choose a theologian or school of theology already known to you (Barth, Elizabeth Johnson, Gutierrez) and provide an extended reflection on how that thought can figure as a resource for the concerns of the course, or c) pick a significant work of description or personal testimony by someone working at the intersection of medicine and religion or philosophy and use that work as the basis for consideration of some themes from this course (this should be a work not covered in the assigned reading of the semester). In all three cases, the paper should include an expression of your personal constructive perspective on the issues you have framed. Students will be expected to make a brief oral report on their project at the last class meeting. These presentations will be considered in the final grade for the project. Papers are due December 15.
40% of final grade
Class participation 30%
Class leadership and reflection paper 30%
Final paper 40%