When I joined the Theology, Medicine, and Culture fellowship in 2015, I had already completed my first two years of medical school at Indiana University, and I would be returning in less than a year to complete my medical degree. Prior to my sabbatical, I had little conception of what rigorous theological study entailed and few recent experiences writing anything other than lab reports or resumes. I had not lived outside central Indiana in almost 20 years, and had never set foot in North Carolina.
Despite my initial misgivings, I experienced incredible support, inspiration, and fellowship during my year at Duke Divinity. Drs. Kinghorn and Curlin are clearly passionate about relating theology and medicine, and all of the faculty I worked with were also excited by the possibility. This, I’ve found, is unusual. In conversations about the TMC fellowship, many of the people I encounter will say, “That’s interesting,” or, “I can see how those two would relate.” These well-meaning individuals may actually have some vague idea of how theology and medicine relate to each other, but rarely will anyone be excited by the idea or pursue it further.
At Duke, I encountered theologians and physicians who cared deeply about the future of medicine and believed strongly in the value of theological training. Drawing from their enthusiasm, I, too, started to feel the necessity and interconnectedness of these two disciplines. Within weeks of arriving on campus, I felt compelled to submit an abstract for the annual Conference on Medicine and Religion (CMR). I believed strongly in the value of “reclaiming tradition,” my eventual topic, and with the advice, encouragement, and financial support of Drs. Kinghorn and Curlin, I was able to present my work at the 2016 CMR.
The enthusiasm and confidence I gained at Duke has paid great dividends since returning to Indiana. I felt a more clear direction in my medical work and a renewed passion for patient care. The impact of the fellowship is perhaps most easily seen in my third and fourth year clerkship evaluations, in which multiple attendings noticed my “love for patients” and “attention to patient needs.” The fellowship has also given me the confidence to explore other opportunities for reflection and conversation regarding medical culture and community.
Now in my fourth year of medical school, I have taken on a leadership role in planning the 5th annual Finding Inspiration and Resilience in Medicine Conference in Indianapolis, IN. While I may have just as easily planned the logistics of this conference without the TMC fellowship, my vision for the conference would have been far less vibrant and my sense of purpose far less robust. I give the TMC fellowship and its directors, Drs. Curlin and Kinghorn, enormous credit for taking a chance on an inexperienced Hoosier and believing in my ability to create change.
Combining formal academic study with spiritual formation, mentorship, weekly seminars, church and community-based practicums, and semi-annual retreats, the Fellowship in Theology, Medicine, & Culture equips participants to wisely and faithfully engage their vocations with respect to health and medicine.