Sunset Park

Lutheran HealthCare lecture focuses on spiritual side of medicine

January 7, 2014 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Medical care these days involves far more than just physical exams in a doctor’s office, flu shots and MRIs. There is also a spiritual component to healing the patient, according to officials at Lutheran HealthCare.

The health care organization, which runs Lutheran Medical Center in Sunset Park, as well as a host of other family health centers around southern Brooklyn, is so serious about the importance of spirituality that it will spend a day focusing on the connection between medicine and spirituality.

On Friday, Jan. 10, Lutheran HealthCare will host its Eighth Annual Health and Spirituality Lecture, in the medical staff auditorium at Lutheran Medical Center, 150 55th St., at 2 p.m. The lecture is free and open to the public. The guest speaker is Dr. Christina Puchalski, the founder and director of The George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health at The George Washington University in Washington D.C.

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“Spirituality goes right to the heart of our mission,” said the Rev. Donald Stiger, Lutheran HealthCare’s senior vice president of mission and spirituality, in a Brooklyn Daily Eagle  conducted on Tuesday. “Our goal has always been to look after the physical, emotional and intellectual well being of our patients and that has never changed since we were founded in 1883.” Stiger is also a chaplain at Lutheran Medical Center. The hospital was founded by Lutheran religious leaders.

Stiger was quick to add, however, that spiritual care does not mean that the hospital attempts to convert patients to Christianity. “We’re not talking about converting people to Lutheranism. What this is about is having respect for all religions and understanding that spirituality plays an important role in health care,” he said. “The importance of how spirituality can help a patient cannot be underestimated. A person with cancer who is finding very little meaning in life is not going to be motivated to take part in treatments.”

Wendy Z. Goldstein, president and CEO of Lutheran HealthCare “is extremely supportive” of the need to enhance spiritual practices in medicine, Stiger said. The hospital’s board of trustees has also been supportive, he said. In fact, the idea for the spirituality lectures originally came from the board’s mission committee, he said.

The guest speaker at the first spirituality lecture eight years ago was Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard University, author of “The Relaxation Response,” a landmark 1975 book about the mind-body connection in health care.

Puchalski’s lecture topic is “Spirituality in Palliative Care: An Essential Dimension of Whole Person Care.”

Puchalski is recognized as an international leader in the movement to integrate spirituality into healthcare, according to the George Washington University’s website.

The spiritual assessment tool called FICA, which she developed, is used widely in clinical settings around the world.

The cornerstone of her practice is integrating patients’ spiritual beliefs into their health care and supporting health care professionals in providing of compassionate care, according to the university’s website.

Puchalski is widely published in journals on biochemistry research and her writings deal with such topics as ethics, culture and spirituality and healthcare. She has authored numerous book chapters and published a book with Oxford University Press called “Time for Listening and Caring: Spirituality and the Care of the Seriously Ill and Dying.”

She is also a professor of medicine and health sciences at The George Washington University School of Medicine.

Stiger said that if past lectures are any guide, the Jan. 10 event should attract a diverse audience. “Lutheran itself is diverse. In the past, we’ve had clinicians, social workers, chaplains, hospice providers, family practice physicians, all types of people coming to listen,” he said.

For more information, call 718-630-8376.




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