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First Meeting of Health and Spiritual Leaders Explores Future of Health Care


Duke Health News 919-660-1306

DURHAM, NC – International leaders in medicine, religion, and theology will meet for the first time as a formal society to foster a deeper understanding of the relationship between spirituality and human health. This landmark meeting of the Society for Spirituality, Theology and Health is hosted by the recently established Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University.

"Despite decades of research, there has not been a professional society dedicated to addressing the spiritual and religious aspects of patient care and overall human health," said Harold Koenig, M.D., M.H.Sc., co-director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke. "We are thrilled to have gathered thought leaders from across the globe to discuss the needs of all individuals regardless of their cultural or religious affiliations."

The newly established Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health is an interdisciplinary research center in the Duke University Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development. It was created in 2007 through a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to be a world-wide, scientifically-based organization dedicated to research and education offered through university curriculum, post-doctoral training, a research and scholarship network, research workshops and the formation of a Community of Scholars representing all aspects of spirituality and health.

"Much of our current health care system is focused on treating a specific disease or condition, however, we must care better for the whole individual in relation to their community," said Keith Meador, M.D., Th.M, M.P.H., co-director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. "This movement toward personalized health care requires looking beyond presenting symptoms to acknowledge each person's spiritual needs and understand how they influence their perception of health and human flourishing."

The focus of this year's meeting is "Spirituality, Health and Human Flourishing: Meaning? Measurement? Implications?" Presentations will cover a wide range of topics to establish a universal platform for future work. The conference will feature five plenary sessions, more than 30 papers and approximately 60 posters. Attendees will include representatives from medicine, nursing, religious organizations and academia.

The meeting will take place June 25-27, 2008, in the R. David Thomas Executive Conference Center at the Duke Fuqua School of Business in Durham, North Carolina.

The keynote speaker is William Roper, M.D, M.P.H., the chief executive officer of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Health Care System and the dean of the school of medicine. Other speakers will include:

-- John M. Templeton, Jr., M.D., president of the John Templeton Foundation
-- Ellen L. Idler, Ph.D., professor of sociology and the Institute for Health Policy Research, as well as acting dean of social and behavioral sciences at Rutgers University

-- Jeff Levin, Ph.D., M.P.H., an author, epidemiologist, and religious scholar

-- Kenneth I. Pargament, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Bowling Green State University

-- John Swinton, Ph.D., professor and chair in practical theology and pastoral care and professor of nursing at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom

More information is available by visiting the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health's Web site at or the Society's Web site at

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