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Duquesne University’s Healthcare Ethics Center Builds Relationship in Saudi Arabia

Dr. Henk ten Have stands in the classroom of (KSA) in Riyadh. Wearing a shirt and pants, ten Have, the director of Duquesne University’s Center for Healthcare Ethics, stands out amid the traditional robes of Saudi Arabia.

Ten Have is an adjunct professor at KSA, the only specialist from an American university serving in this capacity in the bioethics field. This unique relationship is expected to germinate rich opportunities for faculty and students at Duquesne and KSA.

Saudi Arabia provides scholarships to study abroad at specified institutions, including the graduate programs in Duquesne’s Center for Healthcare Ethics, ten Have said. As this relationship grows, the University might be able to tap experts from this Islamic nation, educating Duquesne students on Muslim bioethics. Opportunities for sharing back and forth, ten Have believes, could extend to student and faculty exchanges.

A former United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) director, ten Have has been working with KSA since 2003, when the decision was made to develop the study of bioethics. As trust with ten Have grew, he moved from laying groundwork through UNESCO to teaching. For the past three years, he has led classes focused on human dignity, human rights and social responsibility. His second cohort in the three-year program will begin next year, drawing in about a dozen more men and women who serve as nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals.

Conflicts that might be anticipated between a Catholic professor from a Spiritan institution amid the Islamic-imbued culture of the Saudis have not surfaced. “We have many similarities in the way things are approached from our religious perspectives,” ten Have said. “The religious context, despite the differences, is important.

“We agree on principles; they have the same idea of human dignity and are comfortable with the universal UNESCO framework,” ten Have said.

That doesn’t mean differences don’t exist. “They know perfectly well they have traditions that are not accepted in other countries,” ten Have observed.

With Duquesne as one of KSA’s windows to the West, “For our students, there is the opportunity to go there and do research, with a possibility for projects on human dignity,” said ten Have. “Some might compare medical problems, the approaches in the U.S. and in Saudi Arabia and explain the differences.”

Not only will this nascent relationship with KSA open doors to future scholarship, ten Have believes it will increase tolerance. “Fears projected on the Muslim population are out of proportion. Most of the people share the same values that we do,” he said. “Their religious views are like our views: to create a better perspective for other people.”

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 10,000 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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