An international ethics conference in Botswana.
How did the journey begin?
In the Fall of 2007, I had transitioned into an executive position
with one of the United States federal agencies to design, direct, and
promote educational conferences and liaison development initiatives
within the United States and overseas. Specifically, I was exploring the
possibility of an international conference concerning the relationships
between ethics, healthcare, medicine, and research. One evening, with
that task in the forefront of my mind, a television commercial reminded
me to download from iTunes a favorite song of mine by the British
artist, Annie Lennox. My download led to a series of web searches that
finally ended with my viewing her video-clip, Sing.
Singcaught me up in a whirlwind. I watched Annie Lennox move HIV+
women in South Africa to dance and sing themselves into a personal
resilience beyond words. Tears streamed, and the index finger of my
right hand pointed at my computer monitor, "I am going to do
something about that. "
Until the early morning hours, I explored the southern African area
and the health needs of the people of the region. I recalled various
academic collaborations within the Society of Research Administrators
International that I had enjoyed with a few colleagues at the University
of Botswana. Over the years, they had made me increasingly aware of the
critical mission that the University was leading for the benefit of
those most in need.
Suddenly, the conference-concept exploded. It could meet a number
of goals both practical and greater. Realizing the time difference, I
raced into my office very early and called my colleagues at the
University. The collaborations began.
From the start, the conference-concept needed a title that would
act as a powerful metaphor. What came about was a need to capture not
just the sharing of intellectual information for the enrichment of the
brain, but, more importantly, the powerful energies of the heart for the
deepening formation of persons and communities. Small wonder the
conference title became, "Retrieving the Human Face of Science:
Understanding Ethics and Integrity in Healthcare, Medicine and
The concept was slowly taking shape as a global force for the
good--an act of systemic educational sharing with the ultimate goal of
humanitarian assistance for the sick, the suffering, and those who care
for them. Things seemed to be well on track.
Suddenly, though, an unexpected transition occurred that augmented
the concept in ways beyond my imagining.
In May 2008, I was offered the opportunity to transfer back to Navy
Medicine, the original government agency I had served starting in 1991.
Back home at Navy Medicine, I became Special Assistant to the US Navy
Surgeon General for Ethics and Professional Integrity. With my transfer,
the concept had to come with me from my prior agency. I planned to
present it to the Surgeon General hoping for his interest.
During my in-brief with Admiral Adam Robinson, I shared the story
with him and told him the event was a concept that needed a home to be
realized. The decision was his. Smiling he said, "Why wouldn't
Navy Medicine want to do this for others? That's our mission.
Let's do it. "
The rest is history.
A wide variety of initiatives, planning meetings, and dreams
brought about reality. The University became the actual sponsor led by
its own Office of Research and Development. Partnering with the
University were Navy Medicine and the Graduate School of Nursing at the
Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Including any
number of private sector scholars and experts, it was astounding to see
so many institutions and agencies provide for the conference faculty to
take part in this signature event. We were especially honored that
Archbishop Emeritus and Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu agreed to be the
opening keynote speaker.
Finally taking place in December 2009, the Botswana international
ethics conference brought together distinguished keynote speakers,
lecturers, respondents, and panelists. They addressed critical ethics
issues for healthcare leaders and researchers, especially for the first
class of medical students in the new School of Medicine at the
University. In the end, it was absolutely a stunning success.
But a question needs to be asked.
"Was the conference a one-time story whose success is destined
to fade quickly with the passing of each slideshow image on a laptop
photo album? Or is there something deeper?"
During the development of the conference, we were delighted to make
the acquaintance of the United States Ambassador to Botswana, Stephen J.
Nolan. The Ambassador's personal support and enthusiasm were
incomparable. He commented often that the power of this event must go
well beyond its closing. He urged us to find ways to ensure that the
academic scholarship and interior formation energized in this conference
continue to be important gifts and resources for others well beyond its
closing. This publication answers the Ambassador's urging in part.
The Proceedings provides you, our readers, with a means of entering
into the experience of the conference keynotes and lectures. It includes
diverse texts that address the importance of the conference. It
incorporates reflections on how the conference touched the lives of
those who participated. To secure the perpetuity of these texts and in
the spirit of its own international mission, the Society of Research
Administrators International agreed to publish the Proceedings as a
special edition of its Journal of Research Administration (Volume 41,
But yet still another question needs to be asked.
"Is this just an electronic or print moment in time, an
artistic flash of interest celebrating an intellectual memory?"
In the Greek tradition, icons are important and powerful. Many know
icons as the painted images used in Greek Orthodox Churches. The images,
though, are not simple, religious pictures. They represent something
much more than pious imagery. They are pure art. They are metaphors; as
such, they evoke and sustain a power deeper than one can imagine.
As metaphors, icons are sacred windows into the experience of the
Ultimate. They are the means by which the limited imagination of the
mortal enters into and is caught up in the overwhelming Presence of an
"Other" who cannot be tied down to one age, one thought, one
conceptualization. Icons are doorways to the sacred that overpower the
individual and move one to change at the deepest possible level. They
shatter boundaries and invite one into a dimension free of all of the
restrictions of logic's limits.
This Proceedings is essentially an invitation into an
icon-experience. The experience is not the publication itself. No, this
is an invitation into something that transpired in Gaborone, Botswana,
at a university, for one short but seemingly limitless week, in the
December of 2009.
One only needs to look at the image on the cover to understand what
I mean. We see the face of a child whose eyes draw us into something
many of us have tried to escape. The eyes betray a longing, a need, a
burning anger. They want to know, "Why?"
This is the question that led several hundred people to Botswana to
share, to hope, to dream, to protest the inequities that mar the
innocence of the poor. They came in December 2009, without realizing it,
to retrieve and never forget the human face of science. They came for a
conference, and entered into something unfathomable. They left stretched
beyond their limits to meet afterward with new compassion the eyes of
those who look to us with longing, with the sheer and undiluted desire
to be made whole.
Now, as you enter into the following pages: Will you be able easily
to forget? Will you have the courage to enter into the icon and do
something for those who need us most? How will you, with hands open and
fingers pointing not at a monitor but at your own hearts, do something
for and about them?