Contact Lynn:  lynn[at]lynnunderwood.com

Formal career:

Education:

I trained in medicine at the University of Iowa, and then did research in Epidemiology, receiving my PhD in the UK in Cancer Epidemiology from Queen’s University. My research identified why the skin cancer, malignant melanoma, was so deadly in Northern Ireland, looking at the microscope slides of all the cases over 5 years and interviewing all the new cases. Then I designed and implemented an intervention that significantly improved survival when followed up over a 10 years.

Professional:

Currently Senior Research Associate at the Inamori International Center for Ethics at Case Western Reserve University. Past academic positions have included: Professor of Biomedical Humanities at Hiram College, the Department of Epidemiology at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, the Honors College at Western Michigan University and John Carroll University.

I do consulting for organizations who are interested in the spiritual dimension of their work, and give workshops on things like how to use the 16 Daily Spiritual Experience (DSES) questions to explore one’s own spiritual life and communicate about it with others, often those with different beliefs. The DSES has been translated into 40 languages and has been used in over 300 published studies to date, with hundreds of studies ongoing internationally. My major role in science research now is as an consultant to the work of others, most recently for research projects at Harvard University, Yale University, and the University of Connecticut.

I am working on a book focused on how our fundamental self flourishes and develops in the midst of difficult circumstances such as disability, chronic disease, and other hard times, including the role the arts can play in that. For 2017-1018 I was a fellow at a University-based center in the Los Angeles area working on that project primarily.

As a member of the European Research Network on the Human Person based in Greece, I contributed my work on the Human Person in Dire Circumstances, which addresses neurological, psychological and spiritual issues in that context. I was awarded a Library of Congress Kluge Fellowship. I am an Elected Fellow of the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research, was a member of the Advisory Board of the National Center for Rehabilitation Research of the NIH, a member of a working group on the Stigma of Mental Illness for the National Institute of Mental Health, and one on Behavioral Factors and Health with the National Science Foundation, and a member of the Templeton Advisory Board for many years.  I was part of a Liberty Fund project on Human Freedom and Neurosurgery.

While serving as Vice President of an endowed operating foundation, the Fetzer Institute, I initiated and developed a research program over 13 years to support research on the psychosocial and spiritual aspects of health, and areas such as pain and suffering and compassionate love. I worked with the World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health, and other foundations, and conducted and facilitated research, especially interested in bringing together researchers and others despite disciplinary divisions. I am still on review and advisory boards for organizations and journals. For example, I recently reviewed a research project on end of life care, for the Chilean government.

Publications (click for list)  I have co-edited books with Oxford University Press and Wiley Blackwell on topics such as compassionate love, stress, and social support. My articles include work on the doctor-patient relationship, a qualitative study of compassionate love in Christian monks, publications on the methodology of self-report in the social sciences, quality of life, and an article on the complex nature of time in clinical medicine. I have a number of publications on a 16 item scale I developed of ordinary spiritual experiences (the DSES) that is being widely used in studies worldwide (see dsescale.org ). I have also written a trade press book, Spiritual Connection in Daily Life, based on the DSES which was designed for individuals seeking tools to help them grow spiritually and communicate with others at a deeper level.

A personal perspective:  

drawing by lynn

I was born in Los Angeles, and grew up in many places including Germany and Dubuque, Iowa, moving with my dad’s engineering job. I have lived in Ireland, England, and Switzerland. I lived in Belfast for 10 years during the troubles. I now live in the woods near the Great Lakes.

Art is my passion, but my practical bent took me to the sciences for medical school and my PhD. I kept up my study of art over the years and continue to do art, which for me is a spiritual practice too. My science research was driven by a desire to include the whole messy person in medical and social scientific studies. But also I have had a philosophical interest in epistemology, how do we know what we know, and how does what we know map onto reality. So measurement and study design grabbed me. And my research has also led me into the philosophical area of ethics, especially that of other-regarding love. I have enjoyed teaching over the years, and more recently have taught courses such as Neuroethics, and one called: Art, Science, and Spirituality: Perspectives on Love and the Self.

Spirituality has been central in my life. I studied for many years with a novice master of a Benedictine Abbey, who put me through the course of studies of the novices and junior monks, with readings, training, and self-examination. I also have attended many workshops over the years with people like Gerald May and Martin Smith and Thomas Keating. I have led small groups and helped individuals who were exploring how to integrate spirituality into their lives using Ignatian Spirituality and creative approaches to prayer such as Lectio Divina. I have been practicing contemplative prayer for 30 years, and for the last 20 years have gone on a yearly week-long silent retreat.

Through my work with the World Health Organization and other life experiences, I have come to know people from many religious traditions and secular approaches, and that has enriched my ability to understand and communicate and learn beyond my particular approach.

I have studied drawing at the University of Iowa, Belfast Institute of Technology, and the Art Institute in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I am a teaching assistant for the Sketchbook Skool. I designed and painted a large hanging mural for a public space in Ireland and did the cover art for The Science of Compassionate Love, and Spiritual Connection in Daily Life. I sell the occasional print of my work. I have illustrated a few stories. While in medical school I studied creative writing at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop .