Scholars in Ethics and Medicine
2019-2020 Program


Virtue, Wisdom, and the Practice of Medicine

Theme Description:

The practice of medicine focuses on actions that are intended to promote health and healing and to do so in ways that are respectful and compassionate.  To be aimed at health and to be consistent with our ethical obligations, these actions need to be of a certain kind regarding the ends they pursue and the means they employ.  This is to say that these actions need the virtue of practical wisdom, by which we identify the best means to achieve worthwhile ends.  How we understand which ends are worthwhile and which means are best will depend on the virtues that inform our thoughts, sustain our motivations, and enable our vision.  For virtue not only guides how we think and act but also how we see the world and our responsibilities in it.  The Scholars in Ethics and Medicine will together explore deep connections between vision, virtue, and wisdom as they relate health and healing, especially the ways in which they allow us to see patients as whole persons, not only bodies; medicine as a goal-oriented practice, not only a technical power; and healing as a compassionate and competent response to deep human needs, not only wants and preferences.

Program Leaders:

  • Lauris Kaldjian, MD, Ph.D., University of Iowa, Co-Director
  • Mike Hawking, MD, MSc, University of Chicago, Co-Director
  • John Yoon, MD, University of Chicago, Senior Advisor
  • Cassandra Oehler, MD, University of Chicago, Mentor
  • Andrew Oehler, MD, University of Chicago, Mentor
  • Garth W. Strohbehn, MD, MPhil, University of Chicago, Mentor
  • Rajeev Anchan, MD, University of Chicago, Mentor
  • Maura Clement, MS4, University of Chicago, Mentor
  • Kate Mullersman, MS4, University of Chicago, Mentor


  • Keynote Seminar
    • Speakers:  Lauris Kaldjian University of Iowa (bio), and Michael Hawking, University of Chicago (bio)
    • Title: Virtue Ethics and Practical Wisdom
    • Date: November 2nd, 2019, 9:30am-3:45pm
  • Lecture 1
    • Speaker: Andrea Leep Hunderfund, Mayo Clinic (bio)
    • Title: How to Train Your Elephant: Practical Strategies to Promote Character Growth
    • Date: November 20th, 2019 5:30pm-7:30pm
    • Description: Character formation in medicine aims to affirm and nurture the development of traits, dispositions, and practices that will facilitate wise actions and promote trustworthy behaviors.  During this talk, we will explore the psychological and neurological underpinnings of character formation and expression and discuss practical strategies for promoting character growth.  What does this have to do with training elephants?  Join us to find out!


  • Lecture 2
    • Speaker: Margaret Plews-Ogan, University of Virginia (bio)
    • Title: Wisdom through Adversity: Navigating the Waters of Difficult Circumstance
    • Date: January 23rd, 2019, 5:30pm-7:30pm
    • Description: This talk will review what is known about how people move through difficult circumstance in a positive wisdom-generating way, and use a case study of Charlottesville 2017 to discuss.
  • Lecture 3
    • Speaker: Kathryn Rowland, University of Chicago (bio)
    • Title: What Would a Good Doctor Do? Lessons from the Becoming of a Pediatric Surgeon
    • Date: February 5th, 2020, 5:30pm-7:30pm
    • Description: The desire to help others is an overarching theme for those that pursue becoming a physician. Increasingly we see reported alarming rates of physician burnout. Is this burnout or moral injury? What challenges are physicians faced with during training and in their professional careers to cause such injury? What makes a good doctor? How can we change medical education and the health care delivery system to put the focus back on patient-centered care and allow doctors to be good doctors?
  • Lecture 4
    • Speaker: Jim Woodruff, University of Chicago (bio)
    • Title: Growth Mindset: Ethics and Epistemology in a Complex World
    • Date: February 19th, 2020, 5:30pm-7:30pm
    • Description: A largely reductionist approach to medicine has dominated American medicine since the start of the 20th century.  A focus on isolated subsystems (biological, operational, ethical) without regard for their behavior in the “whole”, has contributed to a fragmented and silo’d healthcare system where patients feel ignored and practitioners feel ineffective and frustrated.  “Systems-thinking” and a related orientation towards growth (growth mindset) are essential for overcoming this fragmentation.  This lecture will serve as an introduction to the rationale and benefits of systems thinking and growth mindset in real world endeavors.


  • Keynote Seminar
    • Speakers: Dr. Lauris Kaldjian, University of Iowa, and Dr. Warren Kinghorn, Duke University (bio)
    • Title: Virtue, Wisdom, Mindfulness, and Story
    • Date: April 4th, 2020, 9:30am-3:45p
  • Lecture 5
    • Speaker: Lydia Dugdale, Columbia University (bio)
    • Title: The Art of Dying: How a 500-Year Old Painting Can Cause Us to Reckon with Bodily Finitude 
    • Date: April 15th, 2020, 5:30pm-7:30p
    • Description: The practice of medicine is hard work, and doctors and nurses are required to get their hands dirty. Aging bodies, flaking skin, non-healing wounds and their associated stench—it’s stuff that can turn the strongest stomach. And yet, clinicians and caregivers cannot shun the failing body. They must attend willingly and well to the patients entrusted to their care. This lecture will consider human finitude as depicted in a sixteenth-century masterpiece and will explore the virtues necessary to persevere in caring well for others.
  • Lecture 6/Closing Ceremony:
    • Speaker: Andrew Oehler, MD (bio)
    • Title:  A Cautionary Tale of Received Wisdom in Medicine
    • Date: May 20th, 2020, 5:30pm-6:30pm
    • Location: Remotely via zoom
    • Description: This talk will present a case-based review of how elements of contemporary medicine carry with them their own ethical principles and how these principles engage with virtue ethics.


For more information, please email Zack Loveless:

For the schedule of the 2018-19 program click here, and for the 2017-18 program click here.

Testimonials from the 2017-18 Program