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The medical misdiagnosis of a family member has spurred Mona Shahbazi ’02, a graduate of Hopewell Valley Central High School in Pennington, N.J., into a study of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and what she terms the “overmedication” of children.

A neuroscience major, Shahbazi is participating in Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL Scholars program, in which students assist faculty members in research while earning a stipend. Shahbazi is undertaking her research under the guidance of Stephen E. Lammers, Lafayette’s Helen H.P. Manson Professor of the English Bible in the department of religion.

Lammers is a distinguished scholar in the field of religion and society, particularly medical ethics and war-peace questions. He is the coordinator of Lafayette’s Health Care and Society program and the ethics consultant for Lehigh Valley Hospital Center, working with residents and medical students. He is also a member of the hospital’s Institutional Review Board, Institutional Animal Use and Care Committee, and Ethics Committee.

Lammers’ teaching areas at Lafayette include contemporary religious issues, religion and modern society, religion and medicine, religious ethics, health and illness in technological societies, religion and political life, value issues in business and the professions, and social and ethical issues in biotechnology and genetic engineering.

“I have a relative who was misdiagnosed with ADHD,” Shahbazi explains. “After quite a lot of money was spent, it was found that he didn’t have it after all. He has a really high IQ and was bored.”

According to Shahbazi, the United Nations recently criticized the United States for over-prescribing psychiatric drugs and for using 80 percent of the world’s methylphenidate, the generic name for Ritalin.

“The question is, are American youngsters indeed suffering so much more behavioral illnesses or have we as a society become less tolerant of disruptive behavior and reliant on medication to ‘fix’ problems?”

Shahbazi notes. “We have a tendency to pop a pill for every ache. Society is more concerned with getting rid of symptoms than discovering the real problem.”

She says she presented her idea for the research project to Lammers, who is co-editor of On Moral Medicine: Theological Reflections in Medical Ethics, which was selected as one of the outstanding academic books of 1987 by editors of CHOICE magazine, a publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries. The book’s second edition was published in 1998. He is also co-editor of Theological Voices in Medical Ethics (1993).

“There aren’t many places where an undergraduate can do this kind of research,” Shahbazi says. “Right now I’m reading studies and putting together information. So many people want to give their opinions on this subject.” She intends to interview pediatricians and teachers who specialize in children with behavioral problems.

Lammers says, “I’m learning along with Mona. I think her instincts are right. Drugs are probably over-prescribed, but why, what’s driving it? There may be many factors.”

The professor says he is using the occasion to teach Shahbazi how to conduct and present research, clarify what she is investigating, and identify who can be of help to her.

“It’s a good experience for an undergraduate,” Lammers says.


A resident adviser at Lafayette, Shahbazi also tutors prisoners at Northampton County Prison in one of the many voluntary community service programs that Lafayette students conduct each year under the auspices of the College’s Landis Community Outreach Center.

She also assists the office of admissions as a tour guide and a member of the committees that coordinate the annual Parents Weekend and Siblings Weekend.

Categorized in: Academic News