Nathan Carlin named director of the McGovern Center

By Roman Petrowski, Office of Communications
September 30, 2021

McGovern Medical School Executive Dean, Ad Interim, Richard Andrassy, MD, has named Nathan Carlin, PhD, professor and Samuel E. Karff DHL Chair, as the new director of the John P. McGovern MD, Center for Humanities and Ethics, effective Nov. 1.

“I want to give back to the McGovern Center and McGovern Medical School,” Carlin said. “Our institution has been so good to me. I have wonderful colleagues, and I want to help our faculty and staff advance in their own careers as I have in mine.”

Carlin will take over the leadership role from founding director of the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics, Thomas R. Cole, PhD, who will remain on the center’s staff.

“On behalf of McGovern Medical School, I want to thank Dr. Cole for his vision and guidance, developing the center into what we all enjoy today,” Andrassy said. “I am certain Dr. Carlin will be a great leader to continue the important works of the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics to benefit our students, faculty, and patients.”

Carlin, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), joined the Medical School as an assistant professor in the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics in 2009. He has served as the director of the Medical Humanities Scholarly Concentration for medical students and he co-directs the Clinical Humanities Certificate program for UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry. He holds appointments in the Louis A. Faillace Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences as well as the Institute for Spirituality and Health.

Carlin completed his master’s of divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2005 before following with a master of arts degree in religious studies and a doctorate of philosophy from Rice University in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

The McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics’ roots trace back to the 1990s, when John P. McGovern, MD, and David Low, MD, PhD, then-president of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), began discussing the importance of humanistic education in medicine and health professions. Low then approached Rabbi Samuel Karff, who developed the “Health and Human Spirit” program consisting of education materials, research, and courses aimed at recovering the human dimension of medicine.

The success of the program led to the approval of the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics in 2003 by UTHealth President James Willerson, MD; and the following year, Medical School Dean Stanley Schultz, MD, named Cole as its inaugural director.

“I understand the intellectual culture of the McGovern Center, I am committed to it, and I want to preserve and grow it,” Carlin said. “Unlike so many other similar centers or divisions across the country, we privilege the humanities over ethics. In terms of teaching, this means that we explore experiences and contexts of medicine beyond concerns of decision-making.”