Last fall, the Center organized a one-day medical ethics course designed to give undergraduates considering a vocation in health care the opportunity to engage in conversation with physicians, philosophers and theologians familiar with medical ethics. Using the small-group discussion format of our Medical Ethics Conference, over ninety students looked at real case studies and real situations they might encounter in practicing medicine in the future, from physician malpractice to end-of-life issues. The course was also an opportunity for students to form an on-going mentoring relationship with practicing alumni physicians.
Four alumni physicians who regularly attend the Philip and Doris Clarke Family Medical Ethics Conference and four other resource people gave their time and energy to make the course a huge success. Th e physicians were Dr. Paul Wright of Youngstown, Ohio, who initiated and generously funded the course, Dr. Paul McCauley, who runs a free clinic in Maryland, Dr. Mark Lindenmeyer, who currently practices law and works in an administrative capacity for three hospitals in the Cincinnati area, and Rev. Dr. Jim Foster, CSC, MD, who serves as an adviser to pre-med students at Notre Dame. In addition to these physicians, Prof. Rebecca Stangl of Notre Dame’s Philosophy Department, Prof. Kevin McDonnell, research fellow at the Center and professor of philosophy at St. Mary’s College, Prof. John Robinson of Notre Dame’s Law School and Center Director David Solomon served as resource people for the course.
The course, which took place on a Saturday, included a lunch at which Dr. Wright spoke about his experience as Blessed Mother Teresa’s personal physician. He encouraged the students to see Christ in their patients, and quoted Mother Teresa, who once told him that when working with patients, doctors must “remember Who it is they are touching.” The course filled to capacity within a matter of minutes during registration, and the students who signed up were not disappointed. “The course was amazing,” one student later wrote, “and … being surrounded by other pre-meds and by people who ‘made it’ was a huge boost for me.” Another student commented that “[the doctors’] sense of passion for medicine was easily noticed, as well as their faith. It was nice to bring past and present members of the Notre Dame family together.” One student even commented that it was “one of the most valuable classes [she had] taken at Notre Dame.”
We are grateful to all the resource people and physicians who attended, and especially to Dr. Wright for his generosity in funding the course. The Center hopes to make this course available every semester, starting this fall.