Daniel Sulmasy, Kilbride-Clinton Professor of Medicine and Ethics
Farr Curlin, Associate Professor of Medicine
We propose to address a series of specific research questions regarding the spiritual lives of physicians, using a faculty development program as our tool, with the overall aim of creating conditions conducive to the spiritual renewal of medicine by renewing physicians themselves. Templeton has nourished research regarding patient spirituality and promoted medical education in spirituality. Yet spirituality remains at the margins of medicine. Our project will a) shift the research focus from the religious practices of patients to the spiritual experiences of physicians, and b) address these questions through a faculty development program modeled after the University of Chicago MacLean Center faculty ethics program and the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program. Our project will differ from these, however, by focusing the scholars' work on particular research questions rather than permitting a broad, open-ended agenda. Our proposal is the first stage in a long-term vision, driven by a strategic series of important questions, each addressed by successive waves of faculty scholars. We begin by enrolling 2 cohorts of faculty scholars (for 2 years each) to investigate physician spirituality descriptively, taking the spiritual pulse of the profession, relating physician spirituality to dissatisfaction and burnout, and to patient satisfaction and outcomes. We envision future scholars building on these descriptive studies to test interventions designed to re-invigorate medicine's spiritual self-conception, and to develop projects to implement and disseminate enduring, transformative programs. By focusing on physicians, we will tap the documented dissatisfaction within the profession, using this as leverage for inviting spiritual renewal. By equipping a critical mass of scholars, we will ensure that the field is led by the best minds, rigorously trained in both science and religion, whose creative scholarship wins peers' respect and provides role models for students.