The Institute for Spirituality and Health
Exploring the connections between spirituality and health.


Our Story

President's Welcome

John K. Graham, M.D., D.Min. President & CEO

John K. Graham, M.D., D.Min.
President & CEO

Welcome to the website for the Institute for Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center.

The Institute for Spirituality and Health is dedicated to the concept that all humans are spiritual beings and research affirms that spirituality plays a vital role in an individuals’ health and in healing. In our sixth decade, the Institute has an outstanding Board of Trustees and Adjunct Faculty. Check the events page to find a list of our conferences, seminars, classes and panel discussions.

Each year we host a Nursing Conference, a Psychotherapy and Faith Conference, and are co-sponsors of the national Conference on Medicine and Religion. We offer classes for Yoga, Tai chi, Meditation 101, and many other classes on topics of interest. Our website is updated often to provide information on our many programs; upcoming events, and Podcasts. You may view video presentations of talks that have been given at the Institute and also find downloadable resources and links to other websites on spirituality and health related issues.

Our Gathering of Friends Banquet is held annually in November at River Oaks Country Club. This is always an inspiring occasion with great speakers and presentation of the Rabbi Samuel E. Karff Caring Heart Award. We welcome your interest and participation in the work of the Institute by your presence at our events and by your financial giving. Contributions of any size are greatly appreciated. Also, be sure to leave your email address so you can receive notification of upcoming events.

Please know you are invited to visit our staff at 8100 Greenbriar, Suite 300. We look forward to seeing you and getting to know you.


History: 1955 - Present

The original building was located in the heart of the TMC

The original building was located in
the heart of the TMC

The Institute for Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center was founded in1955, and was originally known as The Institute of Religion. From its inception, the Institute has been dedicated to the concept that humans are spiritual beings and that spirituality plays a vital role in health and in healing. It was here that one of the first Chaplaincy training programs in the nation was established.

Many of the original founders of the Institute are well known to the Houston community. With their support, a four-story building was constructed behind Methodist Hospital in the middle of the rapidly expanding Texas Medical Center. Medical ethics began to emerge as a key area of interest in the mid-70’s and in 1979, The Encyclopedia of Bioethics said the Institute of Religion, was the “first major institution devoted to medical ethics in the United States. In 1982, as a result of a joint agreement between Baylor College of Medicine, Rice University and the Institute, the Center for Medical Ethics was created. Professor Baruch Brody, Ph.D., was hired to lead a team of ethicists and the Center occupied a portion of the Institute’s top floor. Many academic papers on biomedical and ethical issues were published and major conferences held.  

As the medical center grew, Baylor College of Medicine took over our Ethics department and TMC hospitals took over our chaplain training programs. In the early 90’s the Institute began two conferences: the Psychotherapy and Faith Conference, which combined the topics of psychiatry and religion; and the Nursing Conference which grew out of monthly luncheons and nurses’ retreats. Today both conferences are held in the fall. During the late 90’s a congregational health ministry program (or parish nursing) affirming healthy lifestyles, establishing support groups, dealing with ethical and moral issues surrounding medical treatment, and targeting health programs for all age groups was established.

In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison flooded our building, causing irreparable damage. In a mutual agreement, Methodist Hospital acquired the land and relocated ISH to a
facility, just outside the TMC. The move gave rise to a new name, the Institute for Religion and Health. The name was changed one more time, in 2008, to the Institute for Spirituality and Health. Our current office at 8100 Greenbriar includes an expandable lecture hall, a wood-floored Yoga studio, a small library, and free gated parking.

Research, education and direct services fill most weekdays, and several weekends as well. Seminars, classes, programs, and conferences abound. Our website offers downloadable resources in the field of Spirituality and Health.  Medical and Nursing student education remains a key focus, as does empowering healthcare professionals and the general public with skills to enhance well-being.

For more than 60 years the Institute has made a difference in the Texas Medical Center and greater Houston community.  Lives are being changed every day — physicians, nurses, and health care providers are learning it is not only appropriate to talk about spirituality with their patients, it is also wise to do so.  Every year the separation between medicine and spirituality is diminishing, and we are pleased to say the Institute for Spirituality and Health has helped make that happen.



Our Book

In May 2015, ISH released a historical nonfiction book that coincides with our sixtieth anniversary. “Uniting Faith, Medicine and Healthcare: A 60-Year History of the Institute for Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center” is available for online purchase through Amazon. The book is the first published work of Cathey Nickell, and the project took her more than a year to complete, as she conducted personal, one-on-one oral history interviews with long-time supporters of the Institute and searched through sixty-years’ worth of board minutes, newsletters, hand-written letters, special event programs, books and other documents, all in an effort to compile a chronological historical record of our years from 1955 to 2015. All sales benefit our work here at ISH. If you enjoy the book, please remember to go online and post your reader review.