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Celebrating A Milestone

By Caroline Trent-Gurbuz

The George Washington University Institute for Spirituality and Health (GWish), established in 2001 to promote whole-person care by integrating spirituality into health care and education, marked a milestone this year: its 15th anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, GWish welcomed members of the community, including political and academic luminaries, to a special dinner.

GWish Christina Puchalski
Christina Puchalski, M.D. ’94, RESD ’97, FACP, FAAHPM

“I think 15 years is amazing,” said Kathryn M. Braeman, chair of the GWish Advisory Board, as she acknowledged the work of GWish founder and director Christina Puchalski, M.D. ’94, RESD ’97, FACP, FAAHPM. “[Dr. Puchalski] has been a pioneer in creating awareness of the importance of spirituality in health. She is a visionary on a national and global scale.”

Thanks to Puchalski and GWish’s efforts, spirituality is now recognized as a vital contributor to health — a prominent theme throughout the evening. In addition to Braeman’s introduction, U.S. Representative Fred Upton from Michigan’s 6th District and keynote speaker Robert Boisture, president and CEO of the Fetzer Institute, acknowledged the organization’s work.

“We’re here to celebrate a wonderful cause,” Boisture said. Those in attendance, he explained, though they may come from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and religions, share a passion. “The common denominator, I think,” he said, “is compassion, is opening our hearts to the pain and suffering of the world with hope and a commitment to try to do something about it.”

GWish Betty Ferrell
Betty Ferrell, Ph.D., M.A., FAAN, FPCN, CHPN

With that compassion in mind, GWish presented its inaugural Excellence in Interprofessional Spiritual Care Award to Betty Ferrell, Ph.D., M.A., FAAN, FPCN, CHPN, director and professor in the Division of Nursing Research and Education, Department of Population Sciences, at City of Hope Hospital.
“I don’t at all take this lightly, this recognition, because I know I’m in a room of many kindred spirits and people who are dedicated to ideas about love and spirituality,” Ferrell said. “I think for many of us in the room, there is the work we are asked to do every day, but deep within us there’s the work that we were born to do.” That’s the work, she said, that GWish does: attending to people’s spiritual needs to help them heal and find hope.