Oct 182009
Authors: Vince Crespin

The Faith and Medicine Symposium played host to nearly 100 people in the LSC main ballroom Saturday, as the discussion of faith and how it relates to healing was officially kicked off at CSU.

“We haven’t reached a tipping point yet for this subject, but this is a great start,” said Blake Gibson, coordinator for the Faith and Medicine Symposium and biomedical sciences senior. “I have always been told not to discuss religion and politics in public, but this topic has been ignored long enough.”

With a wide ranging demographic in attendance, people of different religions, ages and medical backgrounds sat beside one another and listened to a panel of medical experts and leaders in faith talk about the relationship between the two fields.

“The speakers were great! When you have the governor of Wyoming give the opening address, get a leading professor in his field (Dr. Harold G. Koening) and a well-respected pastor in Rick Nelson; I think they made it very interesting and credible,” economics graduate student Dan Palmer said.

Koening, a Duke University psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor, said the symposium went well overall, despite the somewhat limited attendance numbers.

“To my knowledge, this is the first time anything like this has happened in Colorado. To bring the clergy and medical industry together was an added aspect to the entire event,” Koening said.

For the next step in this process, Koening said education of the issue is the most important.

“What many people don’t realize is that the health care for my generation, the Baby Boomers, is being set on the shoulders of this current generation that is starting to enter the work force. With that in mind, the religious groups can help to shoulder some of that burden through different avenues that they take part in, so why shouldn’t the two be brought together?” Koening said.

In terms of the actual healing aspect for patients, Koening said the merging of the two entities has large potential due to the fact that in many religions, leaders of the separate faiths are responsible for healing the followers in their religion.

“The possibilities are incredible really. The mind is a very powerful thing; if it believes strongly in one thing, as many do with their faith, that can lead to large strides medically,” Koening said.

Koening said he was optimistic with respect to how many people the symposium reached, but also the type of people it engaged in the discussion as well. Although older attendees largely led the Q&A portion of the symposium, but a fair portion of the crowd were students with their own questions.

“The fact that we had younger people interested in the health care and religious discussion is very encouraging,” Koening said, who claimed that the normal audience members for events like this are citizens who are 50 or older.

Gibson also said he was satisfied with the result.

“I felt it was a great use of university resources, we got the word out on an important issue and had a stimulating conversation with regards to that,” Gibson said.

The Faith and Medicine organization’s next action will take a step back and to assess the surveys of the symposium, Gibson said, so it will know what will be most effective from this stage on.

“This was a perfect conversation starter, but we still have a lot of work to do before it becomes an institutionalized conversation. That’s our ultimate goal,” Gibson said.

Staff writer Vince Crespin can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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