Religion and Medicine in Boston

There is a small grouping of bright, accomplished religious Jewish doctors who are interested in the humanities in the Boston juggernaut of academic medicine. These include Sherwin B. Nuland and Jerome Groupman. I once attended Dr. Nuland’s lecture on medicine reflected in art history. It was an gem of a presentation and well supported by images of artwork. Here is a quote of a review of his latest book from the Forward.

“The features of this stage of life are of particular interest these days to Nuland, who recently published his tenth book, “The Art of Aging: A Doctor’s Prescription for Well-Being.” The book is a departure for the 76-year-old former surgeon, who also wrote the 1994 National Book Award-winning “How We Die,” which detailed the physiological processes that lead to death. Now, in a book more philosophical than medical, Nuland provides advice on “achieving a kind of  harmonywith  the real circumstances of our lives.”

Some of Nuland’s latest thinking was influenced by another writing project, a biography of Moses Maimonides he wrote for the Nextbook/Schocken Jewish Encounters series. Nuland recognized that the teachings of the medieval physician-rabbi have affected how Jews view the body even today. Maimonides helped disseminate religious and cultural traditions that place responsibility for health in the individual’s hands.” I read this book and it is a good introduction by someone who appreciates Maimonides as a physician and historical force but without deep un=derstanding of his legal contribution or a deep appreciation of his philosophic contribution.

Jerome Groupman is an observant physician, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Chief of Experimental Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and one of the world’s leading researchers in cancer and AIDS. He is a staff writer for The New Yorker and has written for The New York Times and The Washington Post. He is author of The Measure of Our Days (1997), Second Opinions (2000), An Anatomy of Hope (2004), and the recently released, How Doctors Think. There are references to his observance in some of his books

We expect grat things from these thinkers who are able to combine a religious and a spiritual perspective with a scientific and medical one. It is from the boundary criossing scholarship like this that the answers to the big questions of bioethics are likely to come.

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