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Penn State Health celebrates religious values and traditions

Penn State Health hosted an interfaith event on March 29 on the three major religious holidays taking place in April ─ Ramadan, Passover and Good Friday.

“A Celebration of RITE Values, Interfaith Traditions and Practices” featured speakers who represent three different religions and discussed the significance of those religious observances. The event was part of Penn State Health’s commitment to creating a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the health system.

Dr. David Goldenberg, a Penn State Health head and neck surgical oncologist and chair of the Department Otolaryngology ─ Head and Neck Surgery at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine, discussed the history of Passover and the symbolic representation of the foods at a Seder meal. He explained the traditions of reciting the Haggadah, which describes the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt and the Passover meal. He also talked about the importance of children’s involvement in continuing the traditions of Passover, as well as ongoing antisemitism facing the Jewish community.

Mariam Shalaby, a Muslim and fourth-year medical student at Penn State College of Medicine, discussed the meaning of Ramadan through the five pillars of Islam ─ faith, prayer, charity, fasting and Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca). She highlighted the purpose of gratefulness, how the Quran, the Holy Book of the Muslims, explains the why, and shared a display of the diverse global community of Muslims.

The Rev. Laura Ramsey, senior staff chaplain at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, discussed Holy Week, the week before Easter, when Christians gather to remember the Passion of Christ ─ Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. For Christians, Good Friday is “good” because it celebrates what they believe is the most momentous day in the history of the world. Jesus died as a sacrifice for the sins of humanity, and Easter celebrates his resurrection.

The event was organized by the Penn State Health Interfaith Business Employee Resource Group and Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

The health system’s Interfaith Business Employee Resource Groups connect individuals from diverse spiritual beliefs and backgrounds to foster a respectful and inclusive environment for all. These groups also promote religious awareness throughout the organization through educational events and community outreach.


Dr. David Goldenberg

Dr. David Goldenberg is a head and neck surgical oncologist who also serves as chair of the Department of Otolaryngology ─ Head and Neck Surgery at Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine and vice president of otolaryngology ─ head and neck surgery services for Penn State Health Medical Group. He was educated at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Haifa, Israel, and completed a residency in otolaryngology ─ head and neck surgery at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel. He went on to do a three-year fellowship in head and neck surgery and oncology at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He has been with Hersey Medical Center for 17 years.

Goldenberg combines a busy surgical practice with teaching and research. His clinical practice includes head and neck cancers, thyroid cancer and parathyroid disease. He teaches residents, fellows, medical and graduate students and is a Penn State College of Medicine Distinguished Educator.

An internationally recognized expert on thyroid cancer, thyroid and parathyroid surgery, he is a funded researcher with clinical research focusing on outcomes and etiology of the rise in the incidence of thyroid cancer. In addition, his basic research lab and translational research focus on head and neck and thyroid cancer genomics. Goldenberg is an accomplished and prolific author of 250 journal articles, 40 book chapters and seven books in the field of head and neck and thyroid oncology and surgery.

Mariam Shalaby

Mariam Shalaby is a fourth-year medical student at Penn State College of Medicine. She served on the board of the Muslim Student Association for three years and is active in the interfaith community of central Pennsylvania.

Rev. Laura Ramsey

The Rev. Laura Ramsey serves as the senior staff chaplain at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, coordinating all spiritual care, with a focus on caring for staff. Ramsey completed her Clinical Pastoral Education residency program at Hershey Medical Center, where her clinical assignments were in pediatrics, women’s health and oncology. She then served as staff chaplain at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health’s Women & Babies Hospital for several years. Ramsey received her board certification in chaplaincy in 2014 and is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. She earned her Master of Arts in ministerial studies from Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (now United Lutheran Seminary) and is currently working toward her Doctor of Ministry at United Lutheran Seminary.

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