Visiting Jesuit Chair Engages Ethical Questions in Health Administration, Health Policy
January 11, 2022 – When Rev. Michael Rozier, SJ, was an undergraduate chemistry major at Saint Louis University, he experienced a profound and repeated call to enter the Society of Jesus.
“It was most present when I was at Mass on campus,” he said. “So what does a perfectly rational college freshman who’s planning on going to medical school, but feels a call to the priesthood when at Mass do?”
His answer, he admitted with a bit of laughter: Avoid Mass. “If I feel called during Mass and if I stop going to Mass, then God will just leave me alone,” he shared during a recent interview. “Obviously, that did not work. The call just found other ways into my life.”
Visiting Jesuit Chair
All these years later, Rozier continues to find great personal fulfillment in this decision – one that provides a strong foundation for his work as an assistant professor of health management and policy at Saint Louis University’s College of Public Health and Social Justice.
This semester, Rozier has joined the Georgetown community as a visiting Jesuit Chair in the Department of Health Systems Administration at the School of Nursing & Health Studies – the school’s first. He is teaching a course to sophomores called Delivering Care Across the Continuum, and he will deliver the annual NHS Values Based Lecture on February 24. (Register to receive the Zoom link.)
“I’m just very grateful for the opportunity to be doing this here and at this moment in time,” said Rozier, noting Georgetown’s location in Washington, DC, and the fact that “public health and health policy are at the forefront of everyone’s mind” given the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moral Theology and Health
Rozier received a PhD in health management and policy, holds two master’s degrees – one in divinity and another in health science, and has a licentiate in sacred theology. He also founded Saint Louis University’s undergraduate public health program.
“My academic background is a combination of public health, moral theology, and health administration,” Rozier explained. “My research and teaching live at the intersection of all three of those areas. I would say the prevailing questions that I like to investigate in my research are: What ethical values are revealed in our delivery of health care? And then how might we change our delivery of health care to reflect the ethical values that we hold most dear?”
Rozier spends time reflecting on the meaning of values, the expression of values, and how organizations and people may say they value one thing, but live something different.
“We have what people in the decision science world call ‘stated values’ and ‘revealed values,’ he said. “There are the values that we say are constitutive of a health care system, and there are values that actually get revealed by the actions that we take.”
Care Across the Continuum
This concept is really at the heart of what Rozier hopes to engage his Georgetown undergraduate students with this semester.
“What excites me about the course is that we’re going to be talking about all the practicalities – the settings, the financing, the human resources, the technology, all of those aspects of health care delivery,” he said. “But we’re going to be framing it in a way that I think a Jesuit university should be framing the question.”
For Rozier, this means: “How do we understand a system that is humanizing and human-centered? We’re going to be looking at all of these very practical elements of a health system through the lens of human dignity and the common good.”
Rozier’s own interests in public health grew after he joined the Jesuits and worked at a prison in Belize. He could not figure out why individuals would not take their HIV medication. “I was totally naive to the idea of stigma being a major barrier to people realizing their fullest potential of health,” he said.
That experience helped change his mind from going to medical school to pursuing advanced studies in public health, which he has done at Johns Hopkins and the University of Michigan.
He has worked at the World Health Organization, engages with the Catholic Health Association of the United States, and is a member of the fiduciary board and the newly elected president of the mission-focused sponsor board of SSM Healthcare – a large health system in the Midwest.
One of his interests through all his work, he described, is seeing how values can inform policy and how policy changes can drive values-based thinking in society.
“We come from a tradition of religious imagination, and that’s hopefully what we cultivate in other people,” he said about the Jesuits. “Those are the people who are going to be the major change agents and shape society and what we need it to be.”
Ignatian Year and Seeing God
Like organizations around the globe, Georgetown is this academic year commemorating the Ignatian Year, marking the five centuries since the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola, had his conversion experience.
“I’m always fascinated in how our tradition informs our future,” Rozier said. “How do we relate who we have been to who we want to be? That’s the kind of dynamic that the Ignatian Year is hopefully challenging us all to consider – to deepen our understanding of our tradition, not so that we dwell in the past, but so that we help shape a better future.”
This action-oriented, values-based introspection guides Rozier’s passion for health care. “I think core elements of our tradition, the Ignatian tradition, is that God is at work in each one of our lives, obviously arising from the belief in our creation as Imago Dei – all of us in the image and likeness of God. God’s at work in each one of our lives,” he said.
“When we think about that in terms of health care, that’s why I care so deeply about health disparities,” Rozier added. “When people don’t live the fullness of their life, it’s not just a tragedy at the human level, it’s a tragedy at the divine level because God has created them to be more in this world. The human structures that we have built are preventing them from living the fullest potential that God has woven into their being.”
By Bill Cessato
(Visit the Spirit of Georgetown website to learn more about the current expression of this 500-year-old system of values.)