The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis of health, and also of meaning. Some of the most fundamental structures of society, including our schools, governments and healthcare systems, are threatened. Much will depend not only on how we respond to this virus scientifically, but also on how we as a society respond.

As physicians and public health professionals, as witnesses to suffering and as human beings, we at the Charles E. Cheever Jr. Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics find ourselves asking deep, indefinite questions. What is the meaning of all this suffering, we wonder. How will we survive, and whom will we become?

At the Charles E. Cheever Jr. Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics, our hope is to continue our work with an eye not only on surviving this pandemic, but also on preserving the community values of human dignity, healing, compassion and justice that give light to a meaningful life. Our times are plague times, and we fear the rise of despotism and darkness. But also, we see the possibility of a Renaissance. Like poet WH Auden, we hope to “show an affirming flame.”

It is our great privilege to invite the public to join our community of intellectuals and healers as we launch a new endeavor: Pan-pals. These twice-weekly online discussion will bring our faculty, as well as allied thinkers, into conversation with the moral questions that trouble the public today. Please join the conversation, and the commit to the work of preserving our shared values through this time of crisis.

Visit our Pan Pals website at