Working Toward a Healthy Future

Our Health Care team has been busier than ever this year, working on several timely and informative resources exploring the role religion plays in providing quality medical care and in understanding our own health.

Our team recently released a resource on vaccines and contemporary religious viewpoints. Vetted by religious and medical experts, this comprehensive pamphlet examines religious beliefs and practices regarding vaccines, common misconceptions about vaccines, and offers information on current laws and requirements. Tanenbaum also provides recommendations and considerations for when you are deciding whether to get vaccinated.

Additionally, our team created a series of three learning modules on the role conscience plays in providing medical care. This online learning experience can be used to help students, health providers, and hospital administrations better understand how to navigate situations where conscience (either the patient’s or the providers) becomes integral to patient care. It’s also free!

Interested in learning more about how our Health Care program impacts others? Join us on June 3 for our 2021 Peace Made Possible Gala. Click here for our Gala webpage with ticket and sponsorship info.

With my warmest regards,

Rev. Mark Fowler
CEO, Tanenbaum



Managing Vaccines in the Workplace

COVID-19 is a daunting and overwhelming reality that companies worldwide are navigating. As vaccines are more widely available, however, companies also have innovative opportunities to design the “new normal” they want to create . . . What is your new normal?

What works best or well for one company will, of course, differ from business to business and location to location. As companies assess next steps in consultation with their legal counsel, Tanenbaum recommends that, at the very least, it is prudent to proactively encourage employees to get vaccinated. As the information continues to evolve, there are actions you can take.

To support companies in this ongoing effort, Tanenbaum has created a digestible resource for how to approach vaccinations in the workplace. For additional information on vaccines and recognized religious exemptions, please see our more in-depth research, available here.

While remaining aligned with both federal and state legal requirements, Tanenbaum encourages companies to support their employees in getting the vaccine. This is good for your employees and the broader community, as it will get us closer to herd immunity. It is also good for your company, differentiating you and adding to your stature as a responsible corporate citizen.

Best of all, by doing this, we can get through this pandemic together.


Vaccines and Our Health: What do you need to know?

Dear Friends,

The COVID-19 pandemic has once again brought the subject of vaccinations to the forefront of public discourse. Although vaccinations have long been successful in combatting serious illnesses and in some cases almost eliminating them completely (such as smallpox and polio), they still remain the subject of much debate and confusion.

In order to provide an alternative to the rampant misinformation campaigns, Tanenbaum has put together a resource exploring common misconceptions about vaccinations and offering answers and information vetted by health experts and religious authorities. It is our hope that this resource will dispel some of the hesitancy and anxiety that affects many people throughout the United States.

There are a number of reasons why people may be hesitant to receive vaccines. These include mistrust of the government and regulating agencies that approve vaccines, pharmaceutical companies that produce vaccines, religious beliefs and concerns that may question the ethics of vaccines, and exposure to misinformation campaigns or, in some cases, a lack of concern about the viruses and diseases that vaccines prevent.

While it would be impossible to address each and every concern cited by the public, this resource explores these concerns and provides facts to mitigate fears, promote education, and combat widespread misinformation around vaccine production and use.

This resource also examines the history of vaccines in the United States in order to answer frequently asked questions that we have identified in regard to vaccines, such as:

Are vaccines required by law?

If so, where and why are they required?

Are there exemptions available for people who may object to certain vaccines?

To learn the answers to these questions and more, please view our new resource Vaccines and Our Health: What do you need to know?

Stay safe and healthy,

The Tanenbaum Health Care Team



Conscience Objections: New online learning modules!

In May, during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, two doctors, brothers who follow the Sikh faith, made the difficult decision to shave their religiously significant beards, called kesh, or the practice of keeping uncut hair, in order to accommodate the PPE (personal protective equipment) stocked by their hospital. At Tanenbaum, we believe that providers should not have to make the decision between honoring their faith practices and providing the best care for their patients, when accommodation may very well be available.

Instead, we recognize this dilemma as an issue dictated by personal conscience, or one of the three types of objections covered in our online learning modules on “conscience rules”. Conscience rules can be understood as areas within patient care where a provider’s conscience may impact the care they are capable of providing. In order to better prepare and avoid situations like the one faced by the Sikh doctors, Tanenbaum’s Health Care program has created three online learning modules to help health care providers understand and navigate situations where their conscience or the conscience of their employees may become salient.

In these learning modules, we explore the three types of conscience objections: personal preference, personal conscience and professional integrity. In order to understand how these distinct objection styles function in real-life situations, we offer numerous case studies to practice with.

  • Personal Conscience: As previously mentioned, the moral dilemma faced by the Sikh brothers and the absence of PPE options at their hospital is an issue of personal conscience because their choice involves a life or death situation and is influenced by their moral/religious convictions.
  • Professional Integrity: A family that identifies as Jehovah’s Witnesses refuses a blood transfusion for their child. The doctor feels that they would be failing their patient (the child) if they do not meet their immediate medical needs and administer the transfusion. How should the doctor navigate this issue? What are the next steps?
  • Personal Preference: A doctor does not want to prescribe PrEP for their patient who requests it because they feel as if it will lead to what they believe is morally unacceptable sexual behavior. Why is personal preference different from personal conscience? How should the doctor respond to this issue?

After working your way through the three learning modules, health care providers will have a better grasp on situations where conscience may arise and they will be better prepared to navigate those situations, so the beliefs of providers can be respected without sacrificing the quality of patient care.

Links to all of Tanenbaum’s online modules can be found here.

If you are interested in learning more about Tanenbaum Trigger Topics, you can find the fact sheet explaining the 15 Trigger Topics, or areas of patient care where religion may become salient, here.

For more information about Tanenbaum’s Health Care Membership, please click here.

Special thanks to the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation for supporting the creation of these modules.



SimClinic: Virtual tool for practicing cultural competence

Dear Tanenbaum Community,

I hope you all are doing well! I’m reaching out because our Health Care program has launched two new modules of Tanenbaum’s SimClinic. The SimClinic is an online educational tool to help medical students (and any health care provider) solidify their skills in religio-cultural competency and professionalism.

While it’s designed for medical education, we think these modules could help anyone practice skills in respectful communication. As such, we would love for you to walk through the two new modules and take the brief surveys at the end. Doing so would really help us understand the SimClinic’s usefulness and could help us secure more funding to develop future modules.

The links for our new modules are below:
Module II

Module III

And our first module is located here.

Thank you for your help and for being a friend of Tanenbaum!

All the best,

Rev. Mark Fowler
CEO, Tanenbaum

These new SimClinic modules are made possible through the generous support of:









Tanenbaum SimClinic Webinar: Medical Education through Simulation

  Click to download event flyer

Medical Education through Simulation
Live Webinar: 
Tuesday, July 7th  12:00 – 1:00 pm ET

Maria McQuade, Health Care Senior Associate
Ira Bedzow, Bioethicist at New York Medical College

Please join Tanenbaum as we launch two new patient modules as a continuation of our SimClinic series. Bring your curriculum into the 21st century, with our newest online learning modules. These modules explore doctor-patient relationships and approaches when a patient’s religion or culture is impacting their decision-making. These modules are created to help medical students gain the necessary tools for navigating difficult conversations around religion and culture. In this session, we will be discussing simulation as a learning tool for students, particularly in this current environment, and would love your feedback on our newest patient scenarios.

All those who attend and complete the modules and user survey will be eligible to win one of ten $10 Amazon gift cards.



Physical Distancing and Social Supporting

Dear Friends,

This is a challenging moment for all of us. COVID-19 (coronavirus) has forced us into new realities.

Like so many of us, at Tanenbaum, we’re taking precautionary steps and are carefully considering how to move forward in these difficult times. As of now, I am grateful to report that all our staff are well, and working off-site. We’re keeping in touch regularly and staying focused on what needs to be done.

We are also planning ahead—because we know that times of uncertainty have a history of breeding dehumanization, suspicion and violence.

And this is certainly a time of uncertainty. Sadly, but not surprisingly, we’re already seeing people turn on one another. Right now, the targets seem to be people from other countries, starting with those from pan-Asia and now people from Europe. We see the demonization starting…and know it’s likely to spread.

So, what can we all do preemptively? We have 3 ideas…and ask you to share yours.

  • Social Distancing = Physical Distancing + Social Support. That means you can…
    • Be in touch without touching.
    • Make a phone call for every hand you can’t shake.
    • Do something to help the most vulnerable for every embrace you must avoid.
  • Second, identify something that makes you feel better and do it…whether it’s prayer or your spiritual life, meditation, exercise, calling your Grammy, or listening to your favorite music.
  • And finally, remember that no matter what you believe, we all share the Golden Rule. Let’s do unto others as we would have them do to us.

Fear has too often been weaponized, so let’s counter that tendency. This is a time for kindness and caring, and a time to help one another no matter who we are, how we disagree, or what we believe.

With hope that you and yours are well, that we are all safe, and that together we can keep fear at bay,

Joyce Dubensky,
Tanenbaum CEO

Holidays in the Hospital

As the end of the year approaches, whether you are decorating a tree with colorful lights, lighting a menorah, or burning a Yule log, it’s important to keep in mind that while holidays are an opportunity to celebrate culturally and religiously significant events, they are also an opportunity to learn more about traditions that are unfamiliar to us.

Tanenbaum likes to call this stretch of holidays the “December Dilemma,” as this convergence can often result in misunderstandings, miscommunication, and marginalization of less familiar traditions. There is no space in which this is more important than the hospital, where patients and their families may adhere to certain celebratory beliefs and practices that impact their care. For example, when observing Yom Kippur, which usually falls in September or October, many Jewish patients engage in fasting, prayer, and reflection. This could impact scheduling appointments, medication intake, and other dietary needs or concerns. Similar considerations also apply to Muslim patients observing the holy month of Ramadan.

Additionally, hospital staff and co-workers may also have certain religious and cultural practices that could impact scheduling, diet, and religious/cultural expression. In 24-hour workplaces, it is already difficult to try to schedule meetings with staff, provide food that everyone can eat, and ensure that requests for time off are accommodated. The holiday season can further complicate this when workplaces often have holiday celebrations and many staff members request off to celebrate with their friends and family. In order to better navigate these situations, Tanenbaum has put together some recommendations and resources, so you can proactively and respectfully address issues and conflicts that arise!

First, it is important to be aware of the holidays that may fall in or around December.

These include:

Eid al-Fitr, a celebration that marks the end of Ramadan in the Muslim faith. The Eid has shifting dates, and although it has fallen over the summer during recent years (it will fall in early-June in 2019), it can fall much later in the calendar and is, therefore, a holiday to consider in thinking about the December Dilemma.

Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights. This five-day celebration usually falls in October or November. In 2019, Diwali begins on October 27th and ends on October 31st.

Bodhi Day, a Buddhist holiday celebrating Siddhartha Guatama’s (the Buddha’s) realization and presentation to his fellow seekers of the Four Noble Truths. Bodhi Day is traditionally celebrated on December 8th (the 8th day of the 12th lunar month).

Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. This eight-day holiday can fall in late November, December, or occasionally early January. In 2019, Hanukkah will start at sundown on December 22nd and end at sundown on December 30th.

Christmas, a celebration of the birth of Jesus, the central figure of Christianity. Christmas is celebrated on December 25th by Christians who use the Gregorian calendar. Christians using the Julian calendar—many of whom are Eastern Orthodox Christians—celebrate Christmas on December 25th on the Julian calendar, which translates into January 7th on the Gregorian calendar.

Kwanzaa, a week-long secular holiday honoring African-American heritage. This holiday is observed from December 26th through January 1st each year by some African-Americans in the United States.

The Lunar New Year, a traditional Chinese holiday marking the end of winter that falls sometime during January or February (in 2020, it falls on January 25th). The Lunar New Year is an East and South East Asian celebration. In China, it is known as the “Spring Festival” and marks the end of the winter season.

Yule, a Wiccan or Pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice, will occur (in the northern hemisphere) on December 21, 2019. Yule celebrates the rebirth of the sun, the beginning of the time when the days will become longer, and welcomes the bounty of spring.

Second, it is also a good idea to download an interfaith calendar, like the one provided by Harvard Divinity School, so your calendar can make you aware of upcoming events and celebrations. For more recommendations and tips for navigating the December Dilemma, please refer to our December Dilemma resource, our religious factsheets, or our Tips for Respectful Communication.

May you all have a safe and happy holiday season!

Warmest regards,

The Tanenbaum Health Care Team



Fostering Religio-Cultural Competence in Nursing

Dear Friends,

On July 19-20, 2018, Tanenbaum convened a number of nursing educators from across the United States, to discuss our new nursing curriculum, Fostering Religio-Cultural Competence in Nursing. This curriculum was created and piloted in partnership with Columbia University School of Nursing’s Masters Direct Entry (MDE) Program to address a gap in nursing education in relation to religious and cultural competence. The event was well attended, with representatives from 16 nursing schools, and 34 attendees overall, including nursing educators, practicing nurses, and people generally involved in health care and health education.

Our speakers at the event, Dr. Vivian Taylor, Associate Dean of Diversity and Cultural Affairs at Columbia University School of Nursing, Dr. Karen Desjardins, Associate Professor and Director of the MDE Program at Columbia University School of Nursing, and our Deputy CEO, Mark Fowler discussed the challenges and opportunities encountered when creating and implementing the curriculum. They further discussed the opportunities for new nurses to have this training in advance of seeing patients. We fulfilled one goal of the Symposium through conversations, garnering feedback on the curriculum content and gaining advice on how to organize the material to attract interest from, and better serve, nursing education programs when the curriculum is made available to the public.

This symposium is the culmination of a 4-year effort spearheaded by Tanenbaum and CUSON staff to create and organize a nursing curriculum on religio-cultural competence that is accessible and easily incorporated into existing nursing programs and class syllabi. The symposium guests responded well to the curriculum, many underlining the necessity of better education and training when it comes to interacting with and treating patients of unfamiliar religious and cultural backgrounds.

Other insights included:

“Great people, awesome organization, and insightful lecturers”

“This conference far exceeded my expectations. I am excited and motivated to begin a new academic year with a new skill set (although I still have much to learn)”

“[The curriculum] seems very thorough”

“It seems very accurate and comprehensive, it’s good to have lots of case studies”

“[I am] really pleased with the material”

We also received some guidance on how to expand the curriculum’s impact by perhaps, making it more concise, breaking up the curriculum thematically rather than by specialty, making the questions more open-ended, both for students and patients, and for certain case studies, including more background information and context.

Overall the Nursing Symposium was a success! The feedback we received was much appreciated and will help guide our next steps as we move this curriculum forward so we can soon make it available to all nursing schools and nursing education programs. We are very excited to continue this project and our effort to ensure that patients of all religious and cultural backgrounds are treated equally and with respect.

Warm regards,

The Tanenbaum Health Care Team

Patient Safety Awareness Week 2018

March 11th marked the beginning of 2018’s Patient Safety Awareness Week, sponsored by the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) in cooperation with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). This year, Patient Safety Awareness Week focuses on safety culture and patient engagement, a cause that Tanenbaum wholeheartedly supports. At Tanenbaum, we believe that patients cannot be safe and engaged if they face religious discrimination and bias in health care settings. As our contribution to Patient Safety Awareness Week, we would like to take this opportunity to discuss some small, but meaningful ways that providers can better understand and communicate with patients.

Currently, in health care settings, religion and spirituality are components of patient care that are frequently overlooked or ignored. This is largely because providers don’t think it’s relevant to patient care, except for in end-of-life contexts, or they don’t feel comfortable broaching this topic with patients and their families. Yet, formal religious affiliations and/or spiritual beliefs and practices are often very important to patients and their families. If conversations regarding religion and spirituality don’t take place between patients and providers, providers could miss an integral piece of the puzzle, and miss an opportunity to better connect with and treat patients.

When conducting a spiritual history, we recognize that many health care professionals are pressed for time, so instead of asking a number of detailed questions about a patient’s religious or spiritual beliefs, we suggest that you ask one more comprehensive question, which is “Do you have any religious or spiritual concerns related to your health that you would like me to know about?” This question addresses any immediate concerns a patient or provider might have about religion and spirituality, and makes the patient feel more comfortable discussing these issues with their provider. If the patient doesn’t have any immediate concerns, it is important to revisit the issue as your relationship with that patient progresses.

In order to combat religious discrimination and provide more patient centered care, providers should strive to open pathways of communication with their patients, to build trust and establish stronger relationships between patients and providers. It is important to note that not all religious discrimination is conscious and overt; in fact, it is more likely that the prejudice patients encounter is unconscious, stemming from ingrained attitudes and assumptions that manifest through behaviors. Communication is one of the best tools a provider has to break down barriers and stereotypes that can negatively impact patient care.

For example, when speaking with a patient or co-worker, it is important to listen actively. If you are already constructing what you will say next, that means you’ve stopped listening. In order to be a more effective health care professional and a more respectful co-worker, remember to listen to what the other person is saying, wait until they are done making their point, and take time to construct ta response so you are not responding from a place of anger or defensiveness.

Safety culture and patient engagement are important steps in building a more inclusive and productive health care system. If you are a provider or health care professional and are looking for more communication tips that will allow you to have more effective conversations with your patients, clients, or coworkers we have compiled a list of Tips for Respectful Communication and information on how to conduct Spiritual Histories.

Have a happy and healthy Patient Safety Awareness Week!

Warm regards,

The Tanenbaum Health Care Team