Spiritual Meets Medical

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CATEGORY: Internships
TYPE: Articles
RELATED PROGRAMS: Institute for Global Citizenship (IGC), Religious Studies

Working at both Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis and United Hospital in St. Paul over the summer, Schreiber produced a 30-page guide outlining various religious issues that might come up in a health care setting.

U.S. hospital chaplains have historically tended to Christian patients. But patient populations are changing and becoming more diverse—and so are their spiritual needs.

Addressing that gap was the project taken on by Marni Schreiber ’14 (Pittsburgh, Penn.) last summer when she worked as a Spiritual Care Unit intern for Allina Health in the Twin Cities. Schreiber is a religious studies major, sociology minor, and Middle Eastern studies concentrator with a strong interest in Islam. As a Chuck Green fellow, Schreiber spearheaded a project to help Allina chaplains better address and accommodate the needs of the diverse religious communities of the Twin Cities.

Working at both Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis and United Hospital in St. Paul over the summer, Schreiber produced a 30-page guide outlining various religious issues that might come up in a health care setting. For example, fasting days, dietary laws, and death rituals can all easily slam up against traditional hospital procedures, says Schreiber.

Her guide also included resources such as lists of funeral homes specializing in serving people of various faiths as well as contact information for religious and ethnic groups in the Twin Cities, such as the Tibetan American Foundation and the Hindu Temple of Minnesota.

Throughout the summer, says Schreiber, she was “both surprised and encouraged by how open and welcoming Allina staff were. They really want to reach as many communities as possible.”

Schreiber’s full-time summer work—supported by both the Chuck Green Fellowship and the Religion Department’s Roetzel Fellowship—made an even greater impact because Allina is also home to one of the country’s leading chaplaincy training programs.

And this Mac senior hopes to continue making an impact on the intersection of health care and spirituality. She is currently working on an independent study project/honors thesis about Muslims in the British health care service and has applied for a Fulbright grant to continue studying the same issue next year in the United Kingdom. If the Fulbright doesn’t come through, she plans to attend a sociology of religion graduate program.

“Muslims in the UK have been really marginalized in the British health care system,” she says, adding that that religious group has the worst health statistics and disease rates in that country. “The more research I do on this subject, the more passionate I become about it,” she says.

Amazing how far an interest first cultivated in a freshman Introduction to Islam class has taken Schreiber—and how much impact her work may ultimately have on health care workers and patients alike.

PUBLISHED: 10/01/2013