David Toole

Associate Professor of the Practice, Theology, Ethics and Global Health

Director | Kenan Institute for Ethics

David Toole first came to Duke University in 1988 for graduate school and earned his Ph.D. in theology and ethics in 1996. After a stint in his home state of Montana—where, among other things, he taught at the University of Montana (his alma mater) and ran a construction company—he returned to Duke in 2005 to serve as an administrator in Duke Divinity School. In 2009, Professor Toole started working with Duke’s Global Health Institute and the Divinity School’s Center for Reconciliation on two projects in East Africa, one focused on leadership and management training in the health sector, and one on training Christian leaders working on issues of reconciliation in the African Great Lakes region. The projects led Toole to nearly a decade of travel back and forth to communities in Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, and Sudan. They also led him to pursue a master of public health degree at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and to undertake a research project on mission hospitals and their legacy in East Africa.

In 2014, Toole left full-time administrative work and joined DGHI as associate professor of the practice of theology, ethics, and global health—a joint appointment with the Kenan Institute for Ethics and Duke Divinity School. In that role, he has taught a variety of courses, including Global Health as an Ethical Enterprise, Ethics and the History of Humanitarianism, Challenges of Living an Ethical Life, Ethics and Environmental Policy, and Ethics and Native America. He has also directed the undergraduate program in global health. 

Toole is the author of Waiting for Godot in Sarajevo: Theological Reflections on Nihilism, Tragedy and Apocalypse and The Morgue in the Garden of Eden: An Essay on Hope … in the Dark, a forthcoming book about a Burundian woman and the hospital she founded during her country’s protracted civil war. Toole’s research interests span broadly across the humanities. He is currently working on a collection of essays titled “What Are People For? Questions Concerning What It Means to Be Human.”