To position people to be eligible for mission positions as well as for ethics positions in health care. Doctoral training in theology with attention to ethics greatly strengthens the role of mission leader within healthcare organizations. Doctorial training in health care ethics accompanied by a strong education in theology maximizes the ability of ethicists to function within a Catholic environment through their acquaintance with the biblical narrative and values; their knowledge of the church’s tradition of ethical and moral teaching. their ability to work within the church through their knowledge of ecclesiology including the church’s mission, structures, and authority; and their appreciation of the human person through their study of Christian anthropology.


The Catholic health care is one of the largest ministries of the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. There are more than 600 Catholic hospitals in the U.S., comprising about 12% of the total number of hospitals; about one in six Americans is treated in a Catholic hospital each year, with an estimated 15 million ED visits and 86 million outpatient visits per year (2003).  Beyond hospitals spans the broader network of Catholic health care institutions—long-term care and assisted living facilities, rehabilitation centers and more—bringing the total number of Catholic health care institutions to well over 2000. Bridging these facilities are Catholic health systems, of which there are currently 62.

An ongoing question within this network is: what does it mean to be a Catholic health care institution?  What does it mean to practice health care delivery and care for the sick in a way that is consonant with Catholic identity?  What is the specific mission of a Catholic health care institution? How do we forward it in the current health care environment?

While the responsibility to attend to these questions is distributed throughout each Catholic health care institution and across the systems, two professional groups are responsible for keeping these questions on the agenda and fostering practices within institutions that nurture Catholic identity: mission leaders and health care ethicists.  These positions tend to be management positions. Depending on the size of the institution, ethicists and mission leaders may be appointed at the Vice President level; at other times, they hold the title of “Director.”

Most Catholic health systems (of which there are 62) have an ‘ethicist.’ The Catholic Health Association (CHA) recently undertook a survey regarding the demographics and training of healthcare ethicists in Catholic systems and found that:


Marquette University Department of Theology is well-positioned to respond to this need:


A student pursuing the Ph.D. in Health Care Mission and Ethics specialization within Marquette’s Ph.D. in Theology and Society must complete at least 30 credit hours of theology course work in systematics/ethics, at least 9 credit hours in each of the two other areas of theology (JCA and historical), and 12 credit hours in healthcare-related courses (e.g., health law, health care finance, etc.). TAS/HME students may be required to take additional course work, beyond the 60-credit-hour requirement, to certify their qualifications in both theology and the allied discipline. Qualifying examinations and dissertation topics for doctoral students in the theology and society specialization are expected to reflect the cross-disciplinary nature of the course work.

In the TAS specialization, Health Care Mission and Ethics, 12 credits of allied courses may be chosen from such courses as:

N207 Health Care Ethics
Offered every fall, spring and summer.

N209 Creating Health Care Systems
Great overview course of health care systems and beginning leadership overview given the complexity of health care today. Offered fall, spring, summer.

H241 Health Care Finance
Offered every odd spring at this time (e.g., spring, 2009, 2011).

H246 Health Care Informatics
Offered every fall; Overview of information and management systems in health care, including analysis.

H248 Health Care Policy
Offered even falls (e.g., fall 2010, 2012).

LAW 7156  2-3 Credits Current Issues in Health Law
Selected current issues in health law, including such topics as public health issues, forensic sciences, health care finance and delivery reform, and genetics behavior, and the law.

LAW 7181  3 Credits Elder Law
Explores the impact of an aging society on health care and social policy, including such topics as income maintenance and age discrimination, health and long-term care benefits and finance, decision-making and individual autonomy.

LAW 7221  3 Credits Health Law
Health care access, finance, and regulation, including a survey of health care provider organizations, interests, quality assurance and liability; government and private financing roles and strategies; and ethical dilemmas of high-tech medicine.


Figure of Light


Theology Department Mission Statement

Theology Department Mission Statement

Marquette University defines itself as Christian, Catholic, Jesuit, urban, and independent. The Department of Theology functions within the university to investigate and understand the Catholic tradition, its relation to other Christian communions, and to other religions of the world. Read more of our mission statement.