My first patient died this morning while we were in the room with her family. I didn't know what to say. She was my age and planned to go to law school. My attending said nothing and told me to go see a patient in the next room.

A Muslim woman and her husband refused to let any male doctor deliver her baby. But there were no female obstetricians on call. How far should we go in respecting cultural differences?

These actual scenarios illustrate the mix of excitement, challenges, and choices involved on both sides of today's doctor-patient equation. For most physicians, medicine is a calling, but many doctors feel constrained by variables out of their control. Patients may feel disconnected from caregivers and long for the compassion and support essential for true healing. In short, today's impersonal health care system challenges the human spirit on every level.

Modern medicine is in search of a soul. And yet, there is great progress and enthusiasm.

The John P. McGovern, M.D., Center for Humanities and Ethics (the McGovern Center) has evolved and flourished in direct response to these health care challenges and opportunities. We address dehumanizing forces by studying and teaching ways in which care and research can be delivered in an ethically-sound, spiritually-informed, and culturally-appropriate manner.

We believe that changing medicine means changing the way we educate and train physicians. Our curriculum feeds the hearts and minds of students in medicine, nursing, dentristry, and other health professional schools at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) . Ultimately, we help students manage the complexities of medicine and science where technical mastery is impossible, ethical problems are difficult, and existential meaning is often in question.