Release Date: April 5, 2017
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Links between physical health and spirituality have been contemplated back to the earliest human civilizations. Today, new research continues to explore those connections, but what do they mean for health care providers? How should providers react when patients discuss their faith or want to pray?
These and other questions will be discussed in a presentation on “Spirituality and Health Care” at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 7 at Good Neighbors Health Care, 175 Jefferson Ave., Buffalo. The event, which includes a potluck dinner, is free and open to the public. For information, contact Chris Sullivan, director of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations of WNY at 585-260-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The speaker is David M. Holmes, MD, clinical associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo.
Holmes, who volunteers as medical director for three free, faith-based clinics in Buffalo, teaches the “Faith, Medicine and End of Life Care” course in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. He practices addiction medicine at the UBMD Family Medicine Addiction Medicine Clinic, uses a faith-based program to help interested patients recover from opiate addictions and is leading a research project studying the role that faith plays in addiction recovery.
“Buffalo’s increasingly international population and the goal of practicing quality, patient-centered care call for doctors and health care professionals to develop cultural and spiritual sensitivity so they can better understand their patients and be more effective in helping them improve their health,” he said.
At this time of year, Holmes added, during Easter, Passover and the onset of spring, many thoughts turn to joy, hope and new life. “The idea of putting past hurts behind, seeking forgiveness or forgiving others, and moving forward with hope and a new beginning is not only a spiritual concept, it is also a very healthy one. It is often essential for overcoming past problems and improving one’s mental, social and physical health.”
At the same time, he said, different religious and spiritual traditions can sometimes conflict with, or present challenges to, the treatment of specific diseases. “For example, what should a diabetic do with her insulin if she is fasting? What should health care professionals understand as a Muslim patient approaches end-of-life? What should health care professionals say to someone who stopped taking their medication because they went to a healing service and believe they were healed?”
Holmes’ broad perspective stems in part from his extensive international experience as director of UB’s global health education program in which he leads medical students and residents on medical missions to provide care in Haiti, Honduras and other developing countries.
“I tell medical students that our job as physicians is to assist patients in optimizing their health and well-being,” said Holmes, who also sees patients at ECMC Family Health Center. “If faith or spirituality are important to a patient, then physicians and all health care providers should consider addressing those beliefs and practices and explore ways they could be utilized to improve health and well-being. This is done in addition to traditional medical care, not instead of it.”
After the talk and dinner, interested attendees can tour the Good Neighbors Health Care clinic, which provides free health care to the uninsured and underinsured, and the Harvest House Ministry Center.
The event is sponsored by the Christian Medical & Dental Associations of WNY, Good Neighbors Health Care and Harvest House.