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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Religion, Spirituality, and Compassionate Healthcare: A Conversation with Dr. Ronald Lacro


On February 13th , Dr. Ronald Lacro, of Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, spoke to an interdisciplinary audience of students and professors about the importance of compassionate care in our healthcare system. Lacro, who specializes in pediatric cardiology, discussed how he maintains compassionate practices and touched upon potential reasons why these practices are not more common in the medical field.

Dr. Lacro began by discussing his biography and how compassionate care became an important part of his practice. Born in Hawaii, he was one of ten kids in his family and grew up in a small town. His family was very religious and he holds that this idea of being a “big family, small town, Catholic boy” informs his compassionate practices to this day. He emphasized the importance of sitting with families and getting to know them on a human level as he believes compassionate care practices “provide a new set of tools to help families sustain themselves.”

Lacro also mentioned that palliative care actually assists longevity and patient comfort, and should thus be employed sooner rather than later in treatment processes. He does, however, worry about the increasing number of regulations in the medical field and how this may limit the ability to get to know and assist patients on a deeper level. Lacro powerfully encouraged all the students going into the medical field to fight this.

The conversation also touched upon faith, both in Lacro’s practice and his daily life. He is a devout, gay Catholic man who is part of a faith group known as Dignity. Dignity is a progressive community of LGBT Catholics who celebrate mass and discuss their faith together. It was in this community that he met his husband and continues to find spiritual fulfillment. He also enjoys singing for an adult Renaissance musical group known as “Convivium Musicum”. As a Christian, Lacro knows how important and relevant faith can be in trying times.

Thus, he believes it is important to learn compassionate care through many religious lenses, which he did through a certificate in Clinical Pastoral Education through the Harvard Divinity School. His time in this setting allowed him to gain a deeper sense of empathy for patients from various backgrounds.

Dr. Lacro’s powerful message was that in our moments of physical weakness, we are most vulnerable to those around us, especially healers. It is important that health care professionals embrace this gift and tend to the spiritual needs of their patients alongside the physical ones.