About the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities

Director's Message

Dr. Ralph DidlakeWith the blistering months of summer finally eased and our state now lingering in fall's crisp balm and beauty, Mississippians recognize the imminent presence of another holiday season. In anticipation of Thanksgiving, we at the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities join others in seeing and speaking our State's many blessings.

We recognize roads of hope, urgency and endurance navigated by those who brought each of us forth. We recognize paths yet to be known toward the Mississippi we envision for all who share our homes and communities, our hills, forests, and the mountain and basin waters that provide us with so much - even our state's dynamic name. Heirs of many sources, our name is recognized around the world. Elided or distinct, its syllables designate our strengths and frailties, what we achieve, how we triumph, and where we fail.

Our 21st century challenge is to make what we might often wish to escape - our stunning visibility - equal to what we would never change - the strength to be found in our families, homes, and communities. Through them and their sundry histories and cultures, we share knowledge and sustain belief that we have the means, authority and technologies needed to define and redefine, across generations and throughout the life cycle, who we are and what our possibilities can be.

For its role in helping to shoulder this effort, the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities here recognizes and sincerely thanks an anonymous bequest that recently solidified the financial capacity necessary for the CBMH to continue its work in perpetuity. Bioethical and humanities contributions at the CBMH overlap, with all represented disciplines helping to contribute perspectives important in grappling with ethical dilemmas and the impact of social determinants known to adversely influence the health and wellbeing of Mississippi's families and communities.

To date, the CBMH has largely focused its efforts on educational programming and partnerships. For example, the CBMH has partnered with Entergy Cor. to provide students and others on track to join the Mississippi health care work force with a better understanding of stressors that impact health within many Mississippi families. The CBMH Poverty Simulation explores the stress occasioned and decision-making required when income does not cover basic expenses, such as housing, food, transportation, health care, and school, childcare or eldercare. In addition, the CBMH has partnered with the Mississippi Humanities Council, community food advocates, nutritional experts, and community colleges and libraries throughout the state to address inadequate nutrition, obesity, and their impact on health. The resultant Food: For Thought, For Life project brought vivid, colorful and highly informative displays to every region of the state.

The desire to preserve and further our State's human potential and natural environment - each sustained at great price - has long animated the best of Mississippians. Today's circuit riders include nurses, social workers, and other providers who comb our byways to educate and serve. They also include ethics and humanities researchers, who join with others in health care to probe the present, face the future, and link to the past. In the coming years, the CBMH will extend its research efforts to do just that.

One of the grand books says, “Be strong and of good courage…” Another says, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might…” Mississippians are anything but invisible and inaudible, and have long been described in terms of courage and faith or their lack, whether we seek it or not, whether we want it or not. The CBMH seeks to contribute a more fine-grained look at the ethical dilemmas and social determinants so often before us in order to provide an important gift to coming generations: a more expansive understanding of our promise and authority, and of our capacity to work together toward achieving every Mississippian's full potential for unimpeded health, productivity and well-being.

Ralph Didlake, MD, FACS
Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Director, Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities