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Denmark's first professor of Spiritual Care with special focus on cancer appointed at SDU

"We are very pleased with the support of the Danish Cancer Society to realize this professorship that enables us to expand knowledge about patients' psychosocial, existential and spiritual needs and to bring this knowledge into clinical practice," says Ole Skøtt, the dean at Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southern Denmark.

Spiritual Care is a holistic approach for people in need, focusing on their need for hope, meaning, and content of life. It is an effort that has historical roots before the biomedical expansion, but has recently been rediscovered as part of the desire to focus the patient and the different patient needs encountered: psychosocial, existential and spiritual.

It is a focus field WHO and palliative medicine have long been aware of, but that we now wish to to be widely illuminated within the healthcare system as a key element of having the patient's life at the center. The professorship is partly financed by a grant from the Danish Cancer Society and there will be a particular focus on cancer as a model disease, with perspectives for other disease groups. The professorship is anchored at the Research Unit for General Practice, Department of Public Health at the University of Southern Denmark.

The relationship between faith and health

Niels Christian Hvidt has been employed at SDU as an associate professor since 2006 with a broad focus on the relationship between faith and health, and cancer in particular. With his strong position within Spiritual Care, including experience from similar positions abroad and as head of international research networks, Niels Christian Hvidt is the right person to now strengthen research on this basic attention to the needs of patients in Denmark in palliation, general practice and the health services broadly. He will also establish his own research group to work with existential and spiritual care, communication and patient efforts. Through this he will help to spread a culture at university and hospital, which ensures the inclusion of existential and spiritual care in research, education, treatment and care.

Niels Christian Hvidt has been Professor of of Spiritual Care at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich and Fellow at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS). He has been initiator and leader of the Nordic Network for Research in Faith and Health ( and the Network for Research in Spirituality and Health ( and participates in a number of other international research networks and societies.

International research and Niels Christian Hvidt's Danish research has shown that existential and spiritual resources have an impact on health and survival, and on dealing with crisis and disease, not least cancer. And at the same time disease can accentuate new existential and spiritual considerations and needs.

Seven research fields

Niels Christian Hvidt's work as a professor will deal with how existential and spiritual care can be improved through seven research fields: 1. Existential and spiritual needs of patients and relatives, 2. Existential care, communication and patient efforts in different clinical settings, 3. Spirituality and placebo, 4. Spirituality and empathy, 5. Health Professionals own values and their impact on own crisis experiences, 6. Chaplaincy work, and 7. Education and continuing education in existential and spiritual care.

Niels Christian Hvidt studied both theology and medicine, but finished up with a Master of Divinity from the University of Copenhagen in 1997 with the University Gold Medal for his Prize Dissertation. He holds a doctorate from the Gregorian University of Rome in 2001, published with the Oxford University Press in 2007 as Christian Prophecy - the Post-Biblical Tradition. A four-year scholarship from Lundbeck from 2002 to 2006 enabled him to specialize in the intersection of theology and medicine in the field of faith and health, and he now publishes primarily in health-related journals, just as his university research, teaching, supervision and mentorship mainly targets health professionals.

He also has a great interest in broad scientific dissemination, has published several popular science books and articles, and is known from the media. He is an often-used lecturer at conferences and courses in Denmark and abroad.

Niels Christian Hvidt has a Danish-German background, but has grown up in Denmark. He is married to religious sociologist Elisabeth Assing Hvidt with whom he has two boys of 9 and 10 years.

Niels Christian Hvidt’s professorship begins 1. July 2017. The public inaugural seminar - including the inaugural lecture - will be held Friday December 15, 2017 at 14.00-17.00 in the Auditorium, J. B. Winsløwsvej 25, 5000 Odense C.

Contact information:
Private Address: Ulriksholmvej 9, 5230 Odense M.
Born: March 15, 1969 in Copenhagen, Denmark

Meet the professor

Professor, Doctor of Theology Research Unit of General Practice

Niels Christian Hvidt

Editing was completed: 29.06.2017