Drew University Celebrates the Launch of the Contemplative Professional Certificate

“We hope to create pathways for professionals to address some of the global challenges that arise from disconnect within ourselves and with each other”

March 2023 – Drew University’s Caspersen School of Graduate Studies celebrated the launch of the Contemplative Professional Certificate program.

The certificate, part of the Medical & Health Humanities offering, launched in spring 2023. The launch event gathered program faculty and staff, as well as current and prospective students.

Erin Sheehan, adjunct professor of contemplative studies, together with Merel Visse, associate professor and director of the Medical and Health Humanities program, developed the certificate to address the growing number of healthcare professionals who experience mental, moral, and physical stress, often resulting in compassion fatigue and burnout. 

The certificate offers courses focused on contemplation and reflection in professional practice. Professionals will find new ways to care by contemplating their own well-being and extending these insights to others who are suffering.

“We hope to create pathways for professionals to address some of the global challenges that arise from disconnect within ourselves and with each other,” said Sheehan. “Along with others working in the field today, we rely on the latest contemplative and scientific research to combat the suffering that exists in racism, inequities, loneliness, and the rising mental health issues.”

Sheehan led attendees in a practice of quiet mindful meditation, which has been proven to provide such powerful benefits as stress reduction, improved memory, less emotional reactivity, more cognitive flexibility, and has been shown to prevent and treat depression.

“Mindfulness can loosen our reactivity that traps us, it allows us a different kind of response that has less judgment and more patience,” said Sheehan.

“When I started my studies at Drew in the fall of 2020, I was aimlessly pursuing a doctorate degree for external validation and professional achievement,” said Jamilia Hughley G’23. “The first course I took with Professor Sheehan and the theory of practice and mindfulness literally changed me fundamentally as a person on a cellular, personal, and professional level. I’m now much more aware of and able to acknowledge my inner motivations. I show up more authentically, intentionally, and grounded in purposeful strategic activities in my personal and professional relationships.”

Thomas Dooley, poet-in-residence at Overlook Medical Center, facilitated a workshop on reflective writing.

“One of the great gifts of reading and writing poetry is that we get to really explore and encounter the many different stories that are within us,” said Dooley.

Dooley reinforced the crossover and benefits between practicing both mindfulness and poetry. “Studies have been shown that the combination of those two practices slows down heart rate, can redirect pain, and reduces stress in the body,” he said.


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