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On Catholic Teachers of Medicine

"To Reveal Christ the Healer"

ROME, JULY 22, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is the text of an message written by Cardinal Javier† Lozano BarragŠn, the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry on the profile of the Catholic teacher of medicine.

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It is a very drawn out task to establish the profile of the Catholic teacher of Medicine. It involves understanding what a teacher is, what a teacher of medicine is, and knowing what it means to describe them as Catholic.

In the following reflection I will especially look at the term "Catholic." The question has to be asked whether a non-Catholic teacher of medicine will really be different from a Catholic teacher of medicine. And, if so, of what will this difference consist?

I will try to begin by following this sequence in order to answer these questions: the teacher as the one who teaches, the teacher as professor, and the teacher as a Catholic.

To talk about a teacher is to talk about culture. Culture has been defined in very many ways; here I understand it as the humanization of nature. I understand nature to be everything outside individuals that they need to live. Education, seeing culture like this, will be the assimilation of culture. It is necessary to understand the process of culture to understand the process of education. This involves four basic stages: introspection, tradition, assimilation and progress. In introspection, individuals realize their own needs. In tradition, they see what they are offered to meet these needs. In assimilation, they meet them. And in progress, they detect new needs and proceed to create new satisfiers which they have not found in tradition.

I. The Catholic professor of medicine

1. The teacher of medicine as a "teacher"

Teachers of medicine are teachers; they teach. The word "teach" comes from a word meaning a sign. The teacher gives the students the signs that they need and must appropriate. This means that first of all the teacher has to know what the students need in order to guide them in their own introspection and to realize what their needs are.

Once the teacher has taught the students to know their own needs, they show them how they can meet these needs in tradition. This is what tends to be called a "cultural asset." †

Having detected the "cultural asset" they also signal the way to be able to appropriate this asset and assimilate it.

They also need to signal new horizons, both in relation to needs and in relation to possible new horizons. They teach the research which leads to the "creation" of new cultural assets as something necessary.

Consequently, medical culture consists of the humanization of medicine, and medical education consists of the assimilation of the humanization of medicine. The task of the teacher of medicine is to signal to the medical student how to assimilate the humanization of medicine.

Following the steps of all culture, in the introspection stage, the teacher of medicine needs to signal to the students the path so that it is the students themselves who find the needs that they have, which lead them to seek the medical tradition as a satisfier of these needs. Here we can see firstly whether or not the students have the aptitude to learn medical culture. If their needs, which are related to their abilities, are not those which are fulfilled with medical culture, the teacher should indicate to the possible student that they should not be educated in a culture that they do not need, or for which they are not capable.

Having passed the introspection step in medical culture, the teacher of medicine should signal the medical tradition. This is the whole set of medical "cultural assets" that exist. Here we find the complex field of medical science, technology and art. The teacher of medicine should have a command of this field, or, given the complexity of current medical know-how, at least the specialty that they are teaching.

In addition to scientific and technical competence, the teacher of medicine, like any other teacher, should be an expert in educational science, especially in Didactics, as when "teaching," they should do so with such clarity that the students can find the medical cultural asset that they are being shown. The teacher of medicine thus tackles the third step of culture, assimilation. It is not sufficient to teach medical culture; rather it is necessary to indicate to the students the practical path which has to be taken to have a command of it. †

Once the teacher of medicine has completed this third step, they should open up subsequent paths for the students to recognize subsequent medical needs and, based on that already existing, to succeed in "creating" new ...

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