About the Course

Although a series of patient-centered movements have brought attention to the influence of culture and religion on patients’ experiences of illness, medicine has tended to think of clinicians as more or less interchangeable representatives of one biomedical profession, trained to set aside the undue influence of their “personal values.”

Dr. Farr Curlin, Josiah C. Trent Professor of Medical Humanities at Duke Divinity School and a practicing hospice and palliative care physician, explains how medical professionals’ religious values impact their clinical practices—and why they should. Recent studies have found that physicians in the United States are often as religious as their patients, and their religious faith matters both for their concrete practices and for how they understand their goals and responsibilities as physicians.

Christianity matters for medicine because, the truth is, everyone who shows up and seeks to attend to a patient shows up with all that they are. –Dr. Farr Curlin

Dr. Curlin provides a framework in which medical professionals can practice virtues and embody values cultivated within their faith communities to inform their care of patients and resist burnout, apathy, and cynicism. By drawing on the resources of Christian faith, Dr. Curlin reminds us that when we attend to the sick, we are attending to Jesus himself in some profound way.

What You'll Learn

  • How can we rediscover a vision of medicine as a vocation and not just a job?

  • How can medical professionals avoid burnout, apathy, and cynicism in their work?

  • What role should spiritual values play when making clinical decisions?

  • How might we draw on the resources of faith communities to renew our vision for medicine?

  • What does the practice of medicine have to do with the life of discipleship?

Course curriculum

  • 1

    From Job to Vocation

    • Medicine as Vocation

    • "Jobs" and "Vocations"

    • "Soul-Crushing" Work

  • 2

    More Than Science

    • Unique Patients, Generic Practitioner?

    • Medicine and Science

    • Questions Behind the Questions

    • Naming the Hunger

  • 3

    Restoring Trust in Medicine

    • Medicine's Spiritual Roots

    • Burnout and Alienation

    • Medicine and Christian Formation

    • The Trustworthy Life

    • Final Reflections

About the Instructor

Professor of Medical Humanities, Duke School of Medicine & Divinity School

Dr. Farr Curlin

Dr. Farr Curlin holds joint appointments in the Duke School of Medicine (Trend Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine) and in the Divinity School, co-leading its Theology, Medicine and Culture Initiative, where he works to build an interdisciplinary community of scholarship and training. Prior to joining the faculty at Duke, he was associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago School of Medicine and co-director of the Program on Medicine and Religion. As a practicing palliative care physician, Dr. Curlin is concerned with the moral and spiritual dimensions of medical practice, the doctor-patient relationship, and the moral and professional formation of physicians.