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MDs Explore Medicine and Morals With JLI

( The sixth and final lesson of the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) fall course series,  Medicine and Morals, concludes this week. According to Dr. Chana Silberstein, JLI’s Director of Curriculum Development, the course provides a focal point to ground the Torah’s ethical teachings in the advancements of modern science.

“We can never lose site of the individual person in medicine,” Silberstein says. “If the human aspect – the soul and mystique – is lost, then a human is no more than a machine. Only by bringing G-d into the picture do we achieve true transcendence.”

Though the principle mission of the course is to empower students with the knowledge they may need to play “an informed role in their treatment,” some JLI affiliates have taken the lesson out of the classroom and brought it directly into the doctors office.

Medicine and Morals is the third course offered by JLI to receive Continued Medical Education certification from the American Medical Association. Participating doctors are eligible to receive up 30 American Medical Association PRA credits. These credits, awarded upon completing a special online exam after each class, are necessary for continued medical licensing.

One such affiliate to hold a special course for local doctors is Rabbi Mendel Lifshitz, Director of Chabad Lubavitch of Idaho. Lifshitz approached the local hospital’s CME board about giving the class for Boise area doctors. The classes were enthusiastically received by doctors across the wider medical community, including members of the hospital’s ethics committee.

According to Liftshitz, Doctors were “amazed” that a rabbi was giving a course on comparative medical ethics.

“Even the skeptics were impressed with the depth of the course,” Lifshitz said. “Once they saw we were playing on their turf, any excuses [about participating in the class] fell away.”

One of the participating doctors, and a member of Lifshitz’s community, is Dr. Adam Husney. A Westchester, NY native, Husney’s first serious encounter with Chabad was not until he moved to far-off Idaho. Since meeting Lifshitz, Husney has attended several JLI classes. This course, however, took him  by surprise.

“Many of my preconceived views about the role of religion in medicine turned out to be misconceptions.” Husney said. “I was surprised by how closely they aligned.”

Rabbi Motti Wilhelm, Adult Education Director for Chabad-Lubavitch of Oregon also held special classes for doctors in Providence S. Vincent Medical Center, a Portland area hospital. The class, which attracted 20 local doctors and medical practitioners, was delivered with a twist. In addition to the Rabbi’s own lessons, Dr. Mindy B. Zeitzer, a community member and expert on bio-ethics, joined the class to bring in more traditional scientific opinion and current medical practice.

According to Zeitzer the biggest challenge in presenting the material was limiting it to the amount of time allotted to her during class.

 “The topics discussed in the course – the breadth of what’s covered,” Zeitzer says, “is fascinating.”

JLI’s next course will be “Towards a Meaningful Life.” Authored by renowned lecturer and writer Rabbi Simon Jacobson, it will focus on finding meaning and balance in our daily lives and relationships. It is slated to begin this February, 2011.


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