Newswise — WASHINGTON (July 14, 2016) — The George Washington University Institute for Spirituality and Health (GWish) – the first university chartered institute of its kind – celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. GWish is a recognized leader in building the global movement to create more compassionate health care systems.

“Too many people feel unconnected and unloved in today’s health systems—and often suffer in silence,” said Christina Puchalski, M.D., founder and director of GWish. “Advancing whole person care – which includes health care professionals and patients working as a team to not only address physical symptoms, but also a patient’s psycho-social-spiritual needs – is a widely accepted approach to healthcare and recognized for improving the patient experience, reducing medical error and provider burnout."

Puchalski continued, “Reflecting on GWish’s modest beginnings in 2001, our 15 year anniversary marks a significant milestone. Our programs have continued to evolve, building on best practices and expanding our reach to national and global audiences. The Global Network for Spirituality and Health (GNSAH), now housed at GWish, is evidence of worldwide interest and support of our mission.”

To commemorate their 15th anniversary, GWish hosted a dinner at the Westin Hotel in Washington, D.C., where remarks were made by U.S. Representative Fred Upton from Michigan’s 6th District and the keynote address was delivered by Robert Boisture, president & CEO of the Fetzer Institute and generous supporter of GWish initiatives and programming.

Additionally, GW honored Betty Ferrell, RN, Ph.D., with the first GWish Award for Excellence in Interprofessional Spiritual Care, at the event. Ferrell, who was named as one of the 30 Visionaries in the field of Hospice and Palliative Medicine by the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine in 2013, has been in nursing for 37 years with a focus on research in pain management, quality of life, and palliative care. She is currently the director of nursing research and education and professor at the City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte, California. She is immersed in a number of research projects focused on palliative medicine and end-of-life care.

“Betty is a leader, a friend and colleague. I am truly honored to recognize her important work and I thank her for her support and encouragement over the last 15 years. I look forward to more collaboration as we continue to reach our goal of creating a health care system where attention to spiritual needs is recognized as an essential component of care,” said Puchalski.

Over the past 15 years, GWish has made many significant contributions to medical education, research and clinical practice, including influencing policy on a national and international scale. Puchalski has earned distinction as a national and international convener of interdisciplinary healthcare professionals from 48 states and 28 countries, on seven of eight continents. Under her leadership:

1. 80 percent of U.S. medical schools have incorporated spirituality and health into their curriculum;

2. National consensus derived competencies in spiritual care have been integrated into medical school curricula, helping to redefine the meaning of professional development in health care;

3. A 2009 national consensus conference created a model of care, standards and implementation strategies which have been recognized by the Institute of Medicine for its potential to integrate spiritual care across the entire health care continuum and to build an evidence base for future research;

4. A spiritual history tool, Faith/Beliefs, Importance, Community, Addressed in Care or Action, is widely used in clinical settings;

5. Reflection is recognized as integral to personal and professional development of clinicians due to successful pilot implementations through the GWish-Templeton Reflection Rounds;

6. Medical schools are testing the Integrating Spirituality in Education Curriculum;

7. And two consensus conferences in the U.S. (2013) and Geneva (2014) culminated in the call for a global movement led by GNSAH, with the shared commitment of further building the evidence base for spiritual care as a fundamental component of high-quality compassionate health care.

GWish is poised to further its mission in the decades ahead, and to continue working to integrate spirituality into care systems as a way to provide holistic, compassionate care and to elevate the spiritual or inner stories of patients, families, and clinicians to a level of international and national dialogue and debate.

To learn more about GWish, please visit:

Media: For more information or to interview Dr. Puchalski, please Lisa Anderson at [email protected] or 202-994-3121.


About the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences:Founded in 1824, the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) was the first medical school in the nation’s capital and is the 11th oldest in the country. Working together in our nation’s capital, with integrity and resolve, the GW SMHS is committed to improving the health and well-being of our local, national and global communities.