Interdisciplinarity, usually an ill-defined buzzword at Duke, has found a concrete purpose in a partnership between the Divinity School and the School of Medicine. The jointly launched Theology, Medicine and Culture initiative seeks to "deepen theological reflection, church practice, and community formation related to the human experience of illness, suffering and death."
Founded in 2013, TMC offers Divinity students the option of pursuing a certificate program and medical students the opportunity to attain a dual degree. Ray Barfield, the program’s director, stresses TMC’s role in promoting holistic medicine, noting that, “medicine is failing, and one of the main reasons is because the only language it has access to is the incredibly efficient and devastatingly limited language of biology.”
By broadening doctors’ vocabularies, the joint program seeks to address two common criticisms of health care delivery: the inability of many doctors to communicate effectively with patients and a lack of cultural competency among health care providers.
Doctors who coolly treat their patients as test subjects or who fail to connect with them can sow mistrust and, in some cases, worsen health outcomes. Cultural tone-deafness—doctors failing to understand a patient’s background—can cause patients to remain wary of their health care providers and lead to poor treatment.