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Katie McLean | Staff PhotographerChristina Puchalski, founder and director of the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health, lectures on the importance of caring for a patient beyond their physical well-being Thursday afternoon in the Hall of Philosophy. Puchalski suggests that doctors should spend just as much time caring for their patients on a mental, social, and spiritual level.

Puchalski: ‘Healing is not one of only mechanical repair but one of regaining relatedness itself’

Medical patients have physical needs as well as spiritual ones. And Dr. Christina Puchalski doesn’t believe health care professionals should limit themselves to just the former.

She said that 73 percent of cancer patients said they’ve experienced at least one instance of spiritual need; 40 percent of newly diagnosed cancer patients said they have a significant level of spiritual distress.

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Impressionist Staggs uses laughter for medicine

The Rev. Al Staggs can trace his love of comedic performance back to one moment when he was 17: His mother, who suffered from lifelong depression related to an abusive, alcoholic husband and the early deaths of her parents, was ironing bed sheets with a sad expression on her face. To cheer her up, Staggs jumped in front of her and impersonated comedian Jonathan Winters’ grandmotherly character Maude Frickert, wearing a wig, high heels and a dress. His mother laughed so hard that she sobbed.

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Katie McLean | Staff PhotographerStephen M. Sager delivers Wednesday’s Interfaith Lecture, titled “Spiritual Malaise in Modern Health Care,” in the Hall of Philosophy.

Sagar: The key to health care is caring

In Dr. Stephen Sagar’s view, medicine has become a dystopian business enterprise. There are so many rules and regulations for health care professionals to deal with that it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to provide compassionate health care. Bureaucratic systems are taking the soul out of health care organizations, he said, by pulling physicians and nurses out of the front lines and into a culture detached from patients, one that values efficiency and productivity over personal interaction. “You may be surprised to learn that physicians are losing their power to make decisions and moral choices,” Sagar said. “A major contributor to that is micromanagement of the physician and nurse by a burgeoning bureaucracy of administrators and managers who impose a top-down approach to controlling clinicians.”

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Puchalski advocates spiritual assessment in patient treatment

Before going to medical school, Christina Puchalski worked at the National Institutes of Health, a medical research agency that typically treats patients who did not respond to conventional treatments. She began to realize that spirituality is important for coping with physical distress; despite their illnesses, many NIH patients had a real sense of purpose because of their faith.

When Puchalski lost a family member in her youth, she found exploring her spirituality and participating in support groups to be beneficial to her own healing.

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Brian Smith | Staff PhotographerDr. Richard Fratianne, retired director of the Comprehensive Burn Center at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, speaks on the importance of showing patients unconditional care, love and understanding.

Fratianne: Physically healing burn victims is not enough

Soon after becoming director of the Comprehensive Burn Center at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, Dr. Richard Fratianne met a young woman named Gloria who had been burned from the waist up. A life-threatening injury, her burns covered 60 percent of her body.

Those at the burn center put Gloria through five major surgical procedures, Fratianne said. They rebuilt her face with skin grafts so she could open and close her eyes normally and so she could eat and drink without drooling; though her cheeks were stiff, she could still smile. A job well done, the surgeons thought to themselves.

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Sagar to speak on ‘spiritual malaise’ of health systems

Sickness within the health care system doesn’t stay inside the walls of a patient’s room, said Dr. Stephen Sagar. The entire system is ill, and Sagar believes the cause is a lack of compassion.

Sagar, a radiation oncologist and professor of oncology at Canada’s McMaster University, will speak at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy in an Interfaith Lecture on the spiritual malaise plaguing health care systems.

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Brian Smith | Staff PhotographerDr. Timothy Johnson, former chief medical editor for ABC News, delivers Monday afternoon’s Interfaith Lecture in the Hall of Philosophy.

Johnson: ‘It makes sense to have basic health insurance for everybody’

The United States spends almost twice as much per person on health care as any other developed country.

“ ‘Where is this money going?’ is the question that ought to haunt us,” Dr. Timothy Johnson said, “and will be hanging over our heads the rest of this afternoon.”

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Fratianne’s burn center shows need for competency, compassion in health care

Dr. Richard B. Fratianne retired 11 years ago, but he still drives to the Comprehensive Burn Center at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland twice a week.

Fratianne was the director of the burn center from its founding in 1969 until he retired in 2002. Upon his retirement, he promised his patients — some whose bodies are more than 50 percent covered in scars — that he would never abandon them.

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