Conference Keynote Speakers

Commencement Keynote Speaker: Dr. Miguel de la Torre

Our Certification Commencement speaker will be Dr. Miguel de la Torre, Professor of Latinx Studies and Social Ethics at the Iliff School of Theology, Denver, CO. The focus of Dr. Miguel A. De La Torre’s academic pursuit is social ethics within contemporary U.S. thought, specifically how religion affects race, class, and gender oppression. Since obtaining his doctoral in 1999, he has authored over a hundred articles and published thirty-three books (five of which won national awards). He presently serves as Professor of Social Ethics and Latinx Studies at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver. A Fulbright scholar, he has taught in Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, and Germany. Within his guild he served as the 2012 President of the Society of Christian Ethics. Within the academy, he is a past-director to the American Academy of Religion; served as the past chair of the Committee for Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the Profession, past chair of the Ethics Program Section; authored the “AAR Career Guide;” served on the Program Committee, and presently serves on the editorial board of JAAR. Additionally, he is the co-founder and present executive director of the Society of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion and the founding editor of the Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion. A scholar-activist, Dr. De La Torre has written numerous articles in popular media and has served on several civic organizations. Recently, he wrote the screenplay to a documentary on immigration, Trails of Hope and Terror the Movie, which has screened in over eighteen film festivals, winning over seven film awards. 

Thursday Morning Keynote Speaker: David Whyte

Our Thursday morning keynote will be offered by the poet David Whyte. Whyte's mother was from Waterford, Ireland, and his father was a Yorkshireman. He attributes his poetic interest to both the songs and poetry of his mother's Irish heritage and to the landscape of West Yorkshire. He grew up in West Yorkshire and has commented that he had "a Wordsworthian childhood", in the fields, woods and on the moors. Using his own and other’s poetry, he brings the understandings of the poetic tradition to bear on many of the great cyclical questions of existence: how we see our lives, and our deaths; how we view others and their presence or absence; and, perhaps most importantly, what we dare to believe and what we are afraid of believing: an honest appraisal of our relationship to God, the natural world, darkness, the appearance and disappearance of form and friendship and the difficult apprenticeship to our own disappearance. He is the author of nine collections of poetry, three prose books, and one collection of essays. 

Friday Morning Keynote Speakers: Transforming Chaplaincy Research Fellows

Kim Palmer
Prevalence and Distribution of Sources of Distress among Hospitalized Patients: A Precursor Study for Developing Targeted Interventions
Hospitalized patients experience distress from a variety of sources. In a cross-sectional study, we administered self-report questionnaires widely throughout two hospitals in the Emory Healthcare system to determine the most prevalent sources of inpatient distress, how those sources are distributed in the patient population, and how they are related to demographic and illness variables abstracted from the medical record. We used the results from this study to develop a compassion-centered intervention adapted for the bedside from Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT®), a compassion meditation training included in Emory’s CPE residency curriculum. Further research is underway, to test the effect of CBCT on chaplains’ empathic accuracy and wellbeing, to test the effect of CBCT-adapted interventions on patient outcomes, and to qualitatively explore how chaplains are incorporating compassion-centered spiritual health into their practice. 

Marilyn Barnes
Simulated Spiritual Care Encounters as an Action/Reflection Training Model
Walking the journey of a chaplain student can be challenging. Entering that first spiritual care encounter, processing feeling, listening, and responding can leave a person anxious. To add to the process, the student must follow their action with a reflection using a verbatim and share it with others going through the same process. Using the tool of simulation, chaplain students can enter into a spiritual care encounter as an action followed by a reflection on that encounter with a simulated patient. This model provides the student with feedback from the person with whom they have offered care. This action/reflection model is student learning focused and sustainable through creative engagement of interdisciplinary team members. 

Gelia Rajaee
The Value of Chaplains
Professional chaplaincy has historically lived embedded in health systems but as healthcare moves outside of its traditional boundaries, how are we training our chaplains to meet the needs of patients in their everyday lives? The future of chaplaincy lies in transforming the work we do at the bedside to working with individuals in our communities and partnering with healthcare stakeholders. How might we, as chaplains, engage with systems and build new skills to positively impact the health of individuals and communities?

Timothy Usset
This presentation will describe a randomized controlled trial testing an experimental spiritually integrated intervention (Building Spiritual Strength, BSS), with an established therapy for PTSD (Present Centered Group Therapy, PCGT). BSS was as effective as the control group in treating symptoms of PTSD, and more effective in treating symptoms of spiritual distress. Future implications for research and trauma treatment will be discussed, and how chaplains can play a key role in the process.