enter for Spirituality and Healing accepts U award, honor for work

by Mickie Barg

Five years after its inception, the University’s Center for Spirituality and Healing is being honored today with an award for its work.
The John Templeton Spirituality and Medicine Curricular Award recognizes the University’s efforts in the alternative medicine field. It is one of 10 given out by the National Institute for Healthcare Research through a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.
The three-year, $25,000 award will establish undergraduate courses for the Medical School to offer within the field.
Susan Van Grack of the NIHR said the award underscores the growing emphasis medical schools are placing on a patient’s spiritual needs in healing.
“The goal of the award program is to have a spirituality program like the one at the University of Minnesota in every medical school in the country,” Van Grack said. “In 1995, there were only four programs in the country and today there are over 60 medical schools with a curriculum.
“Spiritual issues were once avoided and cast to the side, but now many schools have gone ahead with program implementation without our help,” she said.
Greg Plotnikoff, medical director of the Center for Spirituality and Healing, is a long-time advocate of alternative medicinal methods. He said he sees a changing consciousness in the need to address spiritual issues in the practice of medicine.
“The award is a significant external validation for the Medical School,” Plotnikoff said.
The school is aiming to make physicians more comfortable when making referrals and furthering work in the field. Elective courses in which students can shadow the center’s chaplains are on the horizon, he said.
The program uses four chaplains who coordinate their time between the Medical School and Fairview-University Medical Center dealing with patients with chronic illness, chemical dependency and end-of-life issues. “They bring a lot of experience and an important perspective with them,” Plotnikoff said.
Chaplain Mary Catherine Casey said imagery is one of the tools for spiritual healing used in their work. The imagery’s physical and spiritual implications are revealed in her recollection of a patient who was dying. Her imagery included a wooded place where God would put his arms around the patient. At one point, the patient was failing physically and the monitoring machines attached to her were sounding alarms. She went to her image of the wooded place and the power of the image stabilized the patient, and the machines went back to normal, Casey said.
Mary Joe Kreitzer, the center’s nursing director, said the award is more than a pat on the shoulder.
“The award is an affirmation of the role the center plays in the development of the curriculum at the Medical School,” she said.