Ignatian Values and Public Health

By: Alexander Roedlach, SVD PhD

The online Master of Public Health program at Creighton University is guided by Ignatian values that distinguish Creighton University’s educational goals from those of other institutions and give depth and purpose to the field of public health. Some of the Ignatian values are directly related to public health as an academic field and a profession, encouraging the development of skills and strategies necessary to improve community health and motivate students and faculty to become leaders in a wide range of health-related fields.

 The Ignatian value of “Magis” is derived from the Latin phrase “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam,” meaning “For the Greater Glory of God,” and implies striving for the better, striving for excellence. It embodies the idea of discerning, identifying the best choice in a given situation, and then acting upon it. Thus, the MPH program strives to instill in students a desire for “Magis” in their personal and professional lives, aiming to acquire the skills necessary to understand health issues faced by diverse populations and to discern the best application of such knowledge to improve health and wellbeing of communities.

This ties into another Ignatian value, the emphasis on “Forming and Educating Agents of Change.” Through providing students with these skills, the program seeks to train public health professionals that are leaders in bringing positive change to communities and improving the health of populations. The leadership style is informed by an additional Ignatian value that emphasizes the need for educating students to become “Women and Men for and with Others.” This value motivates the program’s faculty to instill in students a concern for the poor and for promoting equitable access to health services. The public health profession’s focus on addressing global health disparities stresses the importance of working not just “for” the marginalized but primarily “with” communities and individuals affected by health issues and inequitable access to health care services. Such an approach has been shown to result in effective and sustainable programs that lead to long-term positive health outcomes, making Creighton’s MPH program unique among comparable programs. Thus, in addition to the regular skill set needed for work in public health, students at Creighton’s Master’s in Public Health program learn the additional skills of connecting with communities, identifying with them their health-related needs, and jointly working towards addressing these needs.

In order to train students to become “Women and Men for and with Others,” the program adopts an additional Ignatian value: “Cura Personalis.” This Latin expression translates as “Care for the Whole Person” and suggests distinct respect of individual’s unique circumstances and concerns as well as their collective particularities, an appropriate appreciation of singular gifts and insights, and careful attention to the needs of others as individuals and as members of multiple communities. Thus, the program is committed to a holistic view of education, paying careful attention to the talents, needs and interests of students as individuals and the communities they belong to. As students experience “Cura Personalis” individually and personally in the program, it is the program faculty’s hope that this approach frames students’ future professional practice in public health as holistic care and service to the health of communities.

Alexander Roedlach SVD PhD is a medical anthropologist and Associate Professor in Medical Anthropology and Psychiatry at Creighton University. His research focuses on the impact of social and cultural understandings of HIV/AIDS and TB on access to clinical services, home-based care and volunteering, refugee health, and religion and public health.