Published on March 28, 2022 by Sara Roman  
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Samford University’s Healthcare Ethics and Law Institute’s (HEAL) annual conference is designed to encourage dialogue about today’s most pressing health care and law issues. The topic of the 21st annual conference was relevant to providers and patients alike: Coming out of the Pandemic: Where are we Mentally?

Housed under the College of Health Sciences’ Office for Faith and Health, HEAL’s recent annual conference was designed to discuss the sharp rise in anxiety and depression following the COVID-19 pandemic and the ramifications this shift in mental health has on society as a whole.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been an economic recession, political turmoil, increased isolation and natural disasters,” said Scott Bickel professor and director of the Office for Faith and Health. “As we prepare the next generation of health care professionals, we have a responsibility to provide a place for the discussion of these relevant topics.”

Stephanie Wynn, associate dean for scholarly activity, professor and coordinator of psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner track in Samford’s Moffett & Sanders School of Nursing, provided discussion on the mental health and wellbeing of nurses and the impact the pandemic has had on the increased popularity of the travel nurse role. 

“We see and hear a lot on the news but this year’s conference brought together professionals and representatives from a variety of professions who have lived and worked through the pandemic and are continuing to go through it. I believe the discussion put everything in a new perspective for all in attendance,” said Wynn. 

Patrick SmithTo help facilitate this dialogue, HEAL recruited a diverse selection of speakers who could provide different perspectives. The conference’s keynote speaker and the 2022 recipient of the Pellegrino Award was Patrick Smith. Smith is an associate research professor of Theological Ethics and Bioethics and a Kenan Institute for Ethics senior fellow at Duke University

“Bringing these issues into the conversation while students are being trained and formed in a particular way gives them not only a wider array of tools to use but also how to utilize those tools better because they are able to practice the use of those tools in their training,” said Smith.

The Pellegrino Medal is named after Edmund D. Pellegrino, called the “father of the American bioethics movement,” who in 1998 received the first lifetime achievement award granted by the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.