Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

In the Spirit of Healing; Morehouse Medical Professors Win Grant to Teach the Medicinal Power of Spirituality

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

In the Spirit of Healing; Morehouse Medical Professors Win Grant to Teach the Medicinal Power of Spirituality

Article excerpt

When a pastor who is also an internist, and a "Christian who happens to be a physician" get together, their conversations begin with medicine but always end on religion, says Dr. Valencia Clay of the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.

All those months of talking about what, to some, may seem like an unlikely intersection of faith and medicine paid off this past summer for Clay and Dr. Marvin Crawford, a professor of internal medicine at Morehouse. Clay and Crawford applied for and won one of eight Faith and Medicine Curricular Awards given by the National Institute for Healthcare Research (NIHR) and the Philadelphia-based John Templeton Foundation in August.

The $25,000 grant, makes Morehouse one of the nation's first medical schools, and the first historically Black college or university (HBCU), to offer ground-breaking courses that explore spirituality and religion in patient care.

The award-winning courses, which begin this school year, range from African religious beliefs, death and dying to taking religious and spiritual histories. Crawford who co-designed the program with Clay, says the courses will be integrated into the required curriculum for second- through fourth-year medical students.

While Morehouse may be the first HBCU to formally offer such medical courses, the institution joins the ranks of a growing number of medical schools that are crossing the boundary that has long existed between science and religion. Courses on spirituality are being taught at nearly twenty of the nation's 126 medical schools, according to NIHR, a non-profit healthcare institute that collects research on religion and medicine. The growing number of medical schools offering such courses represents what NIHR president Dr. David B. Larson calls "a new era in medicine" - one that focuses on the treatment of the whole person: body, mind, and spirit.

Studies show that 80 percent of Americans want doctors and other health care providers to include religious or spiritual concepts in their treatment, but only one out of ten doctors ever asks their patients about spirituality.

While the empirical data is important, Crawford says, the larger purpose it serves is to be able to put information out that says you must be cognizant of your patient's religious beliefs. …

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