Work in healthcare? Need support with spiritual issues? Please join us for our first-ever spiritual support group meeting and see how you can work through spiritual issues that arise in the context of health professions.
April 24 / 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
This intimate "evening of stories" will celebrate personal experiences of spiritual/special/sacred moments in medicine. Four narratives will be shared, each from different perspectives, with time for discussion at the end of the evening.
April 23rd / 5:30-7:00 pm at ISH
"Meditation" encompasses many different form of practice. This panel will allow attendees to learn about the great many varieties of meditative practice, across both Eastern and Western traditions. Come to learn from three experts in the field!
May 14, 2013 / 5:30-7:30pm
History of the Institute for Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center, Houston
The Institute for Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center, Houston, was founded in 1955 and at that time it was known as the Institute for Religion. We are now in our 57th year. Of course, over the years some things remain the same and, in other ways, our work has moved to a new level -- one step at a time -- yet always with our mission in mind, "to create and disseminate knowledge as to the role spirituality plays in health and healing."
From its very inception, the Institute has been dedicated to the concept that we humans are spiritual beings and, because that is true, spirituality plays a vital role in healing and in maintaining optimal health. Spirituality is important in the process of coping with a chronic illness or disability, and spirituality is important at the end of life. Those statements embody our mission which is “to increase awareness of the role that spirituality plays in healing, in coping with chronic illness and in the maintence of optimal health.
The vast majority of over 3,000 articles in the medical literature show a positive connection between a person’s level of religiosity and their health (see reference below). Almost every parameter that has been studied shows this correlation to be true. People with high religious commitments have less frequent and shorter hospital stays. They have shorter stays in the intensive care units, experience less stress, have lower Cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, less mental illness, and score higher in life-satisfaction and sense of well-being. And, their longevity is increased by up to seven years. These are findings which need to be disseminated and that is our mission.
Many of the original founders of the institute were people who are well known to the Houston community. People like Walter Foundren, Latimer Murphee, Earl Hankamer, William C. Farrington, Howard Tellepsen, and Eddy Scurlock. These families and foundations such as the Moody Foundation were most generous and provided us with a three-story building right behind Methodist Hospital in the middle of the rapidly expanding Texas Medical Center which today is the largest medical center on Earth.
In 2001, tropical storm Allison, flooded the Texas Medical Center and our building. Today, we are located on the second floor of a Methodist hospital building at 8100 Greenbriar - behind VA hospital and near Reliant Stadium. We have a lovely office space, a lecture hall seating seventy-five, and free parking (something to be treasured in the medical center).
From our inception, the Institute has had scholars who publish papers on religious, biomedical and ethical issues. Drs. Baruch Broady created a team of ethicists and the Center for Medical Ethics occupied the top floor of the Institute of Religion. Many academic papers were published. Major Conferences were held such as a 4-day seminar on “Ethics in Medicine and Technology” with internationally recognized speakers like Dr. Margaret Mead. The institute sponsored a seminar with Dr. Herb Benson of Harvard, widely recognized for his work with the Relaxation Response in the field of Mind-Body Medicine. In 1979, The Encylopedia of Bioethics said the Institute of Religion was the “first major institution devoted to medical ethics in the United States.” The Institute also provided one the first Chaplaincy training program in the nation training hundreds of chaplains over the years.
As the medical center grew, Baylor College of Medicine took over our Ethics department and our chaplaincy program was taken over by hospitals who began training their own chaplains. But, the Institute’s presence in the Texas Medical Center has not wavered. Last November, 2011, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Psychotherapy & Faith Conference and the 19th annual Nursing Conference was held in October. We have also have two annual lectureships: the John E Fellers’ Lectureship which will be held this year at Trevisio’s Restaurant in the TMC with Dr. Jeff Levin as our speaker. Dr. Levin is author of a great book entitled, God, Faith, and Healing. Our other annual lecture is named for one of our early members of the Board of Trustees, Rabbi Hyman Schachtel and Dr. Ken Pargament, our Institute’s Distinguished Scholar as speaker.
So, where are we today? We have an energetic staff, an outstanding Board of Trustees and Adjunct Faculty. In September, 2011, we brought Dr. Kenneth Pargament on our staff as our Distinguished Scholar in Residence. Dr. Pargament is the author of two highly referenced textbooks in the area of the psychology of religion and health. They are: Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy and The Psychology of Religion and Coping. He brings an academic excellence to the Institute which we have not had in decades. His focus is to mobilize research in the area of spirituality and health in the Texas Medical Center and that has already begun to happen.
In addition to research projects, we offer an excellent array of lectures every Thursday afternoon. Also, two years ago we began having Spirituality and Health Grand Rounds in the hospitals. These have been well received. Over 285 attended one of our Grand Rounds last year when Cardinal DiNardo was our speaker. Dr. Denton Cooley was in attendance – in was held in his auditorium. Afterwards Dr. Cooley told me he really enjoyed the luncheon and the Cardinal’s message. David Fine, President of St. Luke’s Hospital, said he loved it as well, and said, “We should do this more often.” We publish these events in the Texas Medical Center News so the word has spread.
Perhaps one of the most significant things that is taking place right now is that the Institute for Spirituality and Health, with the leadership of Dr. Ken Pargament, has brought together chaplains from four hospitals to develop a research project that will provide an evidence-based study of the value of chaplaincy in Palliative Care. The significance of this is that prior to this project, the chaplains of the TMC hospitals had never come together and the chaplains are thrilled that they are working together. Prior to this they never had a reason to work together, so they didn’t know each other. They said, “We always remained in our individual silos of excellence.” Now they are coming together and the Institute has provided the meeting place for this to happen.
The Institute has been able to adapt and change over the nearly six decades of its history. We began with a focus on Bioethics. Next, was the training of Chaplains, and now, with the arrival of Dr. Ken Pargament, we are actively engaged in Research projects in the Texas Medical Center. Even before Dr. Pargament arrived we began a Survey of the Spiritual Practices of Physicians in the Harris County. These findings will be published shortly and may be viewed on this website.
Finally, the Institute for Spirituality and Health seeks to create a space for dialogue between science and religion. That’s why we collaborated with the Sociology Department at Rice University and brought Ken Carlin, M.D. from the University of Chicago to speak both at Rice and at Methodist hospital. And, because we want to have a dialogue between science and religion, we have invited Dr. Gerald Schroeder, an MIT-trained physicist and biblical scholar to speak at the Institute on Feb 29, 2012.
Above all, at the institute we hope to encourage the development of qualities in our health care community such as wisdom, noble purpose, awe, mystery, wholeness, harmony, connectedness, tolerance and awareness of the spiritual needs of people of all faiths. We do this with all the programs I have mentioned and one more thing. We get to see Baylor College of Medicine students in batches of 50 during their third year of medical school. I am delighted to say these young men and women, who are our future physicians, are eager to learn there is a connection between spirituality and health.
For 57 years the Institute has made a difference in the TMC and that is why over all these years a host of individuals have contributed to fund our work-- people like Loise Wessendorff and the Henderson-Wessendorff Foundation, The Carolyn Murphee Endowment Fund, and lately gifts from people like Carolyn Clarke, Barbara Kirsch, David and Bonnie Weekley, and Jim Walzel. I believe their gifts are bearing much fruit, lives are being changed -- physicians, nurses, and health care providers are learning it is not only okay to talk about spirituality with their patients, it is wise for them to do so. Every year the separation between medicine and spirituality is diminishing, and I am pleased to say the Institute for Spirituality and Health has played a central role in making that happen.
Our story is now in print -- Uniting Faith, Medicine and Healthcare: A 57-Year History of the Institute for Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center by Cathey G. Nickell (La Vergne, TN: Lightning Source press, 2012). Copies are available at the Institute office by calling Jerri Doctor at 713-797-0600.
REFERENCE: The Handbook of Religion and Health. Harold Koenig, Dana King, and Verna B, Carson, Ed. 2, New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.