The Institute for Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center was founded in 1955, 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.
Many of the original founders of the Institute are well known to the Houston community. With the support of families and foundations, a four-story building was constructed behind Methodist Hospital in the middle of the rapidly expanding Texas Medical Center.
Dr. Baruch Brody, Ph.D., was hired to lead a team of ethicists and the Center for Medical Ethics was created. Many academic papers on biomedical and ethical issues were published and major conferences held. 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 1955 the Institute also established one of the first Chaplaincy training programs in the nation. As the medical center grew, Baylor College of Medicine took over our Ethics department and TMC hospitals took over our chaplain training programs.
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 lovely facility. As a result of these changes, the Institute has evolved over the years and continues to play a unique role in the Texas Medical Center.
Our current office at 8100 Greenbriar includes an 85-person lecture hall, a wood-floored Yoga studio, a small library, and free gated parking.
We have expanded our programs to reach a larger audience and cover a wider range of topics. Our website offers downloadable resources in the field of Spirituality and Health. We have formed: meeting groups for young healthcare professionals, a bereavement support group, and a healthcare professional support group. Medical students at Baylor College of Medicine come to the Institute in their third year. We teach the students about the effects of spirituality on health and healing and how they can better communicate with patients holistically — body, soul and spirit. We also teach these future physicians stress management skills including Yogic Breathing and Meditation.
Our Psychotherapy and Faith conference is in its 24th year and our Annual Nursing Conference is in its 23rd year. We host a workshop for Baylor College of Medicine students teaching principles of compassionate care.
Also, we are in the process of developing a Spirituality and HealthCare Series of workshops and panels to educate and equip health care providers, patients and caregivers about the connection between mind, body and spirit in health and healing so they may incorporate spirituality into the treatment of their patients as they are for their loved ones.
In 2011, Kenneth I . Pargament, Ph.D., was brought to ISH to serve as our Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence. Dr. Pargament is an internationally recognized and published Psychologist, who helped us realize new vistas in research and academic engagement. He also expanded our vision that ISH should be recognized nationally and internationally as a center in the field of Spirituality and Health.
For 60 years the Institute has made a difference in the Texas Medical Center. From our inception, a host of individuals have contributed financially to support our work and, since then, hundreds of others have caught the vision and have given to keep our mission in the TMC alive and well.
Because of these gifts 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.
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 or Barnes and Noble. The book is the first published work of Cathey Nickell, and the project took her more than a year to complete. She conducted numerous personal, one-on-one oral history interviews with long-time supporters of the Institute. She searched through sixty-years’ worth of our board minutes, newsletters, hand-written letters, special event programs, books and other documents in an effort to compile a chronological historical record of our years from 1955 to 2015. The 120-page paperback is $12.00, and the hardcover version is $18.00. All sales proceeds benefit our work here at ISH. If you enjoy the book, please remember to go online and post your reader review at either Amazon or Barnes and Noble.