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“Imago Dei, Made in His Image: Male and Female He Created Them”

May 21, 2024

The journey into Catholic Medical Association’s 93rd Annual Educational Conference


By Félix Angel Rodríguez, M.D.


In October of 2021, when I arrived at the Caribe Royale Hotel in Orlando for CMA’s 90th Annual Educational Conference, I had no idea I would return home that week with a “great commission” to become the chair of the next CMA national event to take place in that same venue three years later.

Being responsible for what is the magnum event in American Catholic medicine for the year made me think of  Moses approaching the burning bush on Mount Sinai. Just as in that most important episode in the history of Yahweh with His people, the Graces and Power of the Holy Spirit became evident, almost immediately, in most wonderful ways, equipping me and the committee for the apostolic work ahead.

The first such Grace was the inspiration of selecting Imago Dei, the belief that every human life is created in the image and likeness of God, as the major theme of 2024’s conference. This concept is the framework that defines our  worldview as Catholic health care professionals. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church declares: “Every human life, from the moment of conception until death, is sacred because the human person has been willed for its own sake in the image and likeness of the living and holy God.” (CCC 2319). Furthermore, Scripture emphasizes that we, image bearers, have been created male and female, and this is a key element of how Christian anthropology and moral life are envisioned.

But how could we address all the possible implications of the Imago Dei vision within a span of three days?  Which topics should be emphasized in comparison to others? How could participants leave our meeting enriched and emboldened to be their best in an environment which has not only forgotten what it means to be made in God’s image, but which also actively goes against such vision, by denying what has been the basis of anthropology in the delivery of health care?

The Holy Spirit is faithful, and I must proudly assert that the teamwork of CMA’s central office and the conference advisory committee has yielded a program that will not only inspire, but also will deepen everyone’s vision of integrating the reality of His Image into our roles as clinicians.

A dynamic roster of plenary and breakout speakers has been assembled.

These men and women will dive deep into topics of current relevance, some of which may stir controversy and self-examination, but never stray from authentically Catholic moral and ethical teaching. A much anticipated emphasis on sex and gender identity will be highlighted, and we expect an insightful panel discussion to conclude our second day.

Equally important will be the conference’s keynote on Saturday night. Fr. Robert Spitzer will address how the moral wisdom of the Catholic Church compels us to live as authentic reflections of the Image of God.

A spiritual and liturgical undercurrent will also take center stage. In keeping with the National Eucharistic Revival, we will have a Eucharistic Procession to conclude Mass on day one –– a first for CMA. We will focus on the One whose image we most closely resemble, Jesus Christ Himself.

That first Mass will be in both English and Spanish, taking into account the organization’s growing Latino presence. Every day will start with Morning Prayer taken from the Liturgy of the Hours, and we will integrate a daily Rosary as well. The Sacrament of Reconciliation will be readily available, as was done at previous conferences. And the White Mass at the stunning Basilica of Our Lady Queen of the Universe will be the “crown jewel” of the three day event. It is never an exaggeration to affirm that CMA’s conferences feel more like a spiritual retreat than a medical meeting, and this one will be no exception.

The meeting is under the intercession of holy witnesses, icons of God who exemplify the Eucharistic Life we must lead as Imago Dei: St. Padre Pio, St. Pope Paul VI, Blessed Carlo Acutis, St. John Henry Newman, St. Catherine of Sienna, and Blessed José Gregorio Hernández. I will discuss these heroes of the Faith in a subsequent column for The Pulse of Catholic Medicine.

Remembering my initial awe of having stepped into a holy space as we began this AEC 2024 pilgrimage, I can affirm it has been not only an honor to have been commissioned, but also to have continued to say ‘yes’ to the vocation of fulfilling the call to be more fully made in His Image.


Board Member Dr. Rodríguez is the 93rd Annual Educational Conference Chair and member of the Catholic Social Teaching and Justice in Medicine Committee. He is also the president of the Palm Beach Guild and a member of the Florida CMA Board.