Office: 731 Wells Hall
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 2006
Ph.D., Religious Studies/Ethics
University of Virginia, 1996 B.A.
Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs/Science Policy
Princeton University, 1984
I am fascinated by the nexus of religion, culture, and science in health care. I am also committed to enabling a diverse public to engage robustly in related policy-making. My research interests are shaped by experiences in institutional, state, and national policy forums as well as by scholarly influences: serving on a hospital ethics committee and a state review board for research on human subjects; working on the staff of a congressional commission addressing Medicare reform; and serving on a panel conducting national hearings on the allocation of scarce transplant organs. Currently I am the MSU director of a joint UM-MSU grant from the National Institutes of Health that develops community engagements to inform ethical policy-making for biobanking. (Biobanks are research repositories of human biological tissue samples.)
In all of my health policy-oriented work, I have been struck by how significantly stories of identity and symbolic language—religious elements—shape the debates but often without conscious attention. Excavating such symbolic frameworks for critical review is a “common denominator” of my scholarly writing. I am also interested in exploring virtues--cultivated habits that result in settled character traits, to paraphrase Aristotle-- that allow for productive ethical discussions of complex issues in a diverse public. That was the subject of my book Just Love: Transforming Civic Virtue (Indiana University Press, 2009). The argument of the book was shaped by my interpretation of feminist scholarship in philosophy and in Christian theology.
My cross-cultural interests were sparked when as a new college graduate I accepted a position teaching English at a university in Taiwan, though I had no Chinese linguistic or cultural background before moving there. Beginning from a blank slate to piece together understanding of a new language and culture was one of the most intellectually and personally formative challenges of my life. In the years since I have explored scholarly approaches to the comparative study of religion and ethics, participated in a cross-cultural bioethics fellowship at Tokyo University in Japan, contributed to Asian Studies programming at MSU, and worked to create academic partnerships with Chinese bioethics centers.
As a teacher, I have been privileged to teach many different kinds of students, including both undergraduates and graduate students in the humanities, international students, medical students, and nursing students. Each group of students has also been my teachers. The cumulative result of their tutelage informs my classroom foci on conceptual understanding of symbol-systems, theory-practice intersections, the critical use of case studies, cross-cultural examples, and explicit attention to how we as a civil community will discuss challenging ethical issues. I have a special interest in encouraging students to explore religious dimensions of supposedly “secular” science, medicine, and public life.