When people around the world think of Texas, I have found that images of Dallas, oil fields, and cattle ranches come to mind.
However, there is much more to our grand state than cattle barons and oil tycoons.
Citrus groves thrive in south Texas and the tall Piney Woods flourish in the east Texas red soil. Sand dunes and beach houses line the coast from Galveston to Post Isabel, and I haven't even mentioned the Chisos Mountains in the Big Bend National Park.
Texas is big and there are a lot of big things in it. And health is one of them. Yet, just like Texas, there is a lot about health that is relatively unknown.
That is why I enjoy talking with Dr. John K. Graham.
Dr. Graham is President and C.E.O. of the Institute for Spirituality and Health (ISH) at the Texas Medical Center in Houston. He is both a physician and a priest. He received his M.D. Degree from Tulane Medical School in New Orleans and is board-certified in two medical specialties - otolaryngology and plastic & reconstructive surgery.
In 1990, Dr. Graham left the practice of medicine and responded to what he describes as God's call to the priesthood. He received his Master of Divinity degree from the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. For twelve years he served as Sr. Associate Rector at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston.
During my first meeting with Dr. Graham, and as soon as we sat down in his office, he explained the mission of the ISH. He said, "Its purpose is to educate healthcare professionals about the role of spirituality in healthcare."
He told me about the 3,000 and more Randomized Controlled Trial studies in the medical literature that show a 66 percent positive correlation between spirituality and health. One study showed that if a person attended religious services once a week or more, his or her longevity increased by 7 years. Dr. Graham explained that attendees of regular religious services had measurably lower stress, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, and improved immune response (IL-6 levels) as well as maintenance of the proper Serotonin levels in the brain.
Dr. Graham believes that people want spiritually sensitive healthcare, which he feels is ethical care.
As I was getting ready to leave, Dr. Graham, knowing that I was in a Christian healing practice, grabbed a copy of his book, Graham Crackers & Milk: Food for the Heart & Soul, and wrote in it, "I thank God for you and your ministry to bring health and healing to God's people."
He knew I had been learning that not only is spirituality important to health, but health could be thought of as fundamentally Spirit-based, God endowed and maintained.
I am grateful for having met Dr. Graham and look forward to another discussion with him this week when the ISH sponsors a talk by Dr. Jeff Levin in Houston.
I hope to have a few minutes to talk privately with Dr. Levin. He is a biomedical scientist and a religious scholar. He is one of the first few to have researched and written about the relationship between consciousness, spirituality, and health. He holds a distinguished chair at Baylor University, where he is University Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health, Professor of Medical Humanities, and Director of the Program on Religion and Population Health at the Institute for Studies of Religion. He is the author of God, Faith, and Health: Exploring the Healing Connection.
I'm confident that Texans, as well as the rest of humanity, are moving closer and closer to understanding that spirituality in healthcare is vitally important.
I'm also confident that they are moving closer to realizing that just as Texas and big are inseparable, so are spirituality and health.
– Keith Wommack is a Syndicated Health Blogger, Christian Science practitioner and teacher, husband, and step-dad. He is a legislative liaison for spiritual healing & Christian Science in Texas. He has been described as a spiritual spur (since every horse needs a little nudge now and then).