At another presentation, I realized that hospitals and medical schools, like undergraduate colleges, are environments of profound religious diversity. A 2005 survey on American physicians’ religious attitudes showed that certain religions are significantly more represented in the healthcare field in comparison to the overall US population. For example, about 2 percent of the US population is Jewish, but nearly 1 in 7 physicians is Jewish. In addition, only 0.4 percent of Americans are Hindus, but over 5 percent of doctors are Hindu. Muslims, Orthodox Christians, Buddhists, and Mormons are similarly over-represented. Since this study is nearly ten years old, it is likely that this religious diversity has only increased. This means that physicians from various traditions are constantly working together, and with patients who may not share their beliefs. Since religion is an important part of life for many Americans, health professionals should engage with this diversity rather than ignore it.
Indeed, the medical field is especially conducive to interfaith engagement because the concepts of service and human dignity are always implicit. The interreligious dialogues at this gathering never lapsed into either watered-down beliefs or theological minutiae; rather, every conversation, panel, and presentation was geared towards improving healthcare and saving lives.
In the future, I look forward to working with others in various professions who share my passions for medicine and interfaith cooperation. I strive to live out one of my favorite verses from the Qur'an, an interfaith call to action in healthcare: “[Allah] decreed upon the Children of Israel [and the Muslims] that whoever… saves one [life] - it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.” (5:32).