New Gift Supports Religious Studies for Health Professionals

February 13th, 2019

A $50,000 commitment from Dr. Ross Schwartzberg will establish a new scholarship for UA students majoring in Religious Studies for Health Professionals, as well as an annual lecture series focusing on health and religion.

Dr. Schwartzberg, who earned his medical degree from the University of Arizona and studied with longtime Religious Studies Professor Bob Burns as an undergraduate, established the endowment in honor of his parents, Fred and Barbara Borga. Schwartzberg will contribute $10,000 per year for five years to this endowment.

Half the funds will support student scholarships through the Fred and Barbara Borga Award for Majors in Religious Studies for Health Professionals. The other half will go to the Fred and Barbara Borga Health & Religion Lecture Series, scheduled to begin next year.

"The endowment for me is an opportunity to connect some key passions in my life: my love and admiration of my Dad and Mom, and my love of the University of Arizona. I hope that the endowment will provide some value for others as they inquire into the meanings of being, faith, truth, beauty and goodness," Dr. Schwartzberg said. "Inquiry into how the world works, history and the intersection of faith and reason, studying comparative religions, have been essential part of my life, and have strongly informed my practice of medicine," Dr. Schwartzberg said.

The Department of Religious Studies and Classics established the Religious Studies for Health Professionals track to provide students with the opportunity to study diverse cultures and religious traditions they will encounter in their professional lives. Double majors in Religious Studies and pre-health majors have reported that this dual training has made them more competitive when applying for graduate and professional schools, and has better equipped them as health professionals to engage with their clients as whole people.

"We are deeply appreciative of Dr. Schwartzberg's generosity and his vision in supporting programing bringing the study of religion into conversation with the study of medicine and health," said Religious Studies and Classics Department Head Karen Seat. "Students in our program study how humans have engaged with issues of life and death in various historical and cultural contexts, and develop an understanding of the historically complex political and economic relationships of religion and health care in the United States and around the world. Their studies will better prepare them to knowledgably engage with the challenges facing health care systems in the 21st century."  

Dr. Schwartzberg's donation for the scholarship and lecture series comes at a time when health humanities programs are on the rise and health professions are incorporating more humanistic approaches, both in education and in practice. At the UA, Kristy Slominski is a newly hired Assistant Professor of Religion, Science, and Health and core faculty member for the Religious Studies for Health Professionals track.

"In addition to the critical thinking and communication skills gained from the humanities, our program explores how diverse religious traditions have shaped understandings and experiences of sickness, healing, and healthcare," Slominski said. "This is an important moment for Religious Studies to show how a careful study of religions can help the health professions to become more self-reflective and culturally sensitive, and I am excited that the University of Arizona is leading the way with its robust program of Religious Studies for Health Professionals."