Visiting Scholar Forum

A Special Ethics for Lunch Forum:

A “Community of We:” justice and the “preferential option for the poor” in Catholic Health Care

The Catholic moral tradition recognizes that social and economic inequities unfairly disadvantage some people in our communities creating disparate suffering, and that we have a social and human obligation to give more of ourselves and our institutions to those who are in the greatest need. This is referred to in Catholic discourse as “the preferential option for the poor” and is a fundamental concept of justice that applies to Catholic services including health care. At Providence Health Care we have responded to this call for justice in supporting innovative work for those who have been harmed by severe social and economic inequities in areas such as HIV/AIDS, mental health and substance use.

Nurse and theologian Alexandre Martins points out that to justly address the oppression that causes poverty and suffering, it is essential to walk with those who are disadvantaged by “making an existential commitment to be a humble companion and advocate” through a dialogical process of mutual learning. In this process we create a “community of we.”

This forum discussion will take place Feb 14, 2023 from 12:00 - 1:00, at St. Paul's Hospital Cullen Lecture Theatre  and will involve an examination of this concept from three perspectives:

  • Dr. Alexandre Martins will offer a theological perspective of our obligations and approaches to create a “community of we” to address inequities and related suffering;
  • Through a clinical and operational lens, Dr. Scott MacDonald will describe how services  can be designed to align with and from the needs of the most affected by social and economic inequities; and
  • Chad Ellsworth will offer a peer-support workers' perspective on how providing care as a person with lived experience offers an unique opportunity to promote justice for and access to health care in a way that can be transformative for those who have been marginalized in traditional health service models.

Lunch will be provided at this event so please arrive early 15 minutes early to pick up lunch and take a seat.

To join us at this forum please RSVP to, and indicate in your reply if you require a vegetarian meal (we apologize that we cannot accommodate more specific dietary requests)

Dr. Alexandre Martins, Professor, Theology Department and College of Nursing

Alexandre A. Martins is a theologian and bioethicist from Brazil. He received a Ph.D. in theological ethics/bioethics from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (USA) where he studied bioethics and global public health from a liberation approach. Then he received a Post-Doctorate Degree in Democracy and Human Rights from the Human Rights Center at the Law School of the University of Coimbra, Portugal. 

He is specialized in health care ethics and social ethics, especially in areas of public health, global health, community based-approaches, and Catholic social teaching. His scholarship has been broad. Widely published, he has lectured in various countries. His last books were Covid-19, Politica e Fé: Bioética em diálogo na realidade enlouquecida (São Paulo, SP: O Gênio Criador, 2020), published in Brazil, The Cry of the Poor: Liberation Ethics and Justice in Health Care (Lanham, MD.: Lexington Books, 2020), published in the USA in English, and he co-edited with MT Dávila the Special issue in Spanish of the Journal of Moral Theology 1 no. 2 (2021): Covid-19 y Ética Teológica en América Latina. His upcoming book Christology and Global Ethics: Methodology for Bioethics from the Margins, is scheduled to be out later this spring.

As a healthcare provider and global health advocate, he has served in middle and low-income countries throughout the world, such as Brazil, Bolivia, Haiti, and Uganda. Currently, he is assistant professor at the Department of Theology and the College of Nursing at Marquette University in Wisconsin, Regional Coordinator of Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church for Latin American and Caribbean region, and Vice-President of the Brazilian Society of Moral Theology. 

Dr. Scott MacDonald, Crosstown Clinic Physician Lead

Scott MacDonald is the physician lead at Providence Health Care’s Crosstown Clinic in downtown Vancouver. Crosstown was the first clinic in North America to provide injectable hydromorphone and diacetylmorphine treatment  for people with severe opioid use disorder who have not responded to the standard treatments. There are now clinics based on this model developed at Providence Health Care from coast to coast in Canada.

He began his work with substance use disorders in the Canadian Navy at CFB Halifax. For the past two decades he has worked on the NAOMI and SALOME studies investigating intensified treatment options for street opioid and heroin users. His team has successfully transitioned to a long-term program offering safe, effective and cost effective treatments for those suffering from the consequences of illicit opioid use. Current research includes developing person-centered care approaches for people who use substances.

Chad Ellsworth, Peer Support Specialist

Chad is a Peer Support Specialist working out of Hope to Health Clinic in the downtown Eastside of Vancouver with his main focus in outreach. Chad moved to Vancouver three years ago with the hope of helping people experiencing addition, mental health, and homelessness to navigate our health care system and ensure they are treated in a fair way and receive equitable access to care.