Just a Thought with Dori Beeler

Author: Claire Solomon

Just a Thought with Dori Beeler

Dr. Dori Beeler is a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Theology, Science and Human Flourishing. She received her Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology from Durham University in England. She is working as an ethnographer for a project called Developing Virtues in Scientific Practice, which allows her to delve into what it means to be a good scientist, and how scientific values, ethics and virtues are taught and developed by lab members.

As a medical anthropologist, what topics do you focus on in your research?
My focus of interest for my graduate work was on Reiki practice, a Japanese spiritual hands-on healing practice. It was developed in 1922 at the end of the Meiji Period by Mikao Usui, a Japanese man with an eclectic background. Reiki is practiced worldwide and I have had the privilege of meeting some very interesting people along the way. Two years ago, just before I started my work at Notre Dame, due to an illness in my immediate family, I took a turn in my research interests. My husband and I spent copious amounts of time in a pediatric oncology ward with our son. Maybe it was the fresh eyes of a newly minted Ph.D. that made the light bulbs go off — I’m not sure — but I was suddenly aware that childhood cancer and issues regarding resilience are some things that I wanted to turn my mind to. There are so many studies of childhood cancer in terms of clinical trials and drug tests; however, the emphasis of the psychosocial and behavior of children in oncology is just developing. I have something I can add to that development in terms of resilience, its flawed use in the clinical space and the impact this has on patients and their families.

You lived in England for a while. How long did you live there and what were you doing there?
I went to England in 2010 in order to start my graduate studies. I had intended to come back after the master’s, which as a full time program lasts one year. I decided to stay on and continued my Ph.D. work there, which I finished in 2015...My research was explicitly on complementary and alternative medicine, Reiki practice, spirituality and wellbeing. Along the way I worked as a research associate in two different centers, the Centre for Medical Humanities and the Centre for Engaging Science and Society.

What classes are you teaching this semester and what is your favorite part of teaching?
This semester, I am teaching Fundamentals of Social and Cultural Anthropology. I have a mixed group of students in this class: pre-med, science, finance, peace studies and anthropology majors. They are a good group. I enjoy the mix of interests, as it helps feed my own varied interests and experiences in life. My absolute favorite part about teaching is the transformation: being able to open up someone’s mind. I can see this when the light in their eyes intensifies. It is the best part. Maybe it is my anthropologist training, but I try to help students understand that we need to asks questions first, and hopefully never judge along the way.