Chairing A Conference: Spirituality in Pediatrics

July 5, 2011

Body

Just about two years ago, I was asked to chair the upcoming 2011 Conference on Spirituality in Pediatrics. Little did I know at the time what an amazing journey this would be! It seemed like I had so much time to plan and now I find that it is just around the corner. It will be held October 26-28, 2011 at the Marriott Medical Center.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Conference, this is actually our sixth biennial gathering. Since 2001, the volunteers of The Auxiliary to Texas Children's Hospital have organized, marketed and staffed a conference on the subject of Spirituality in Pediatrics. This much-needed conference began because members of the auxiliary recognized that pediatric patients have specific spiritual needs as they face their illnesses and they have a very unique way of expressing those needs. Through the years, we have seen our attendance grow to include pediatric professionals from across the country and now from around the world. Our attendees span the scope of health care — their will be physicians, nurses, social workers, child life specialists and chaplains in attendance.

Each year, the conference chair has had the opportunity to choose the theme for the conference. This year's conference is titled Spirituality in Pediatrics: Providing Joyful Spiritual Abundance in Lean Times.

Throughout my association with Texas Children's, both as an employee and as a volunteer, I am frequently asked, "How can you work around sick kids?" or "Isn't it totally depressing to be around sick children all the time?" It is so hard to make those not familiar with the pediatric environment understand that, in direct contrast to it such as being a depressing place, Texas Children's is actually quite a joyful place. I am constantly amazed and uplifted by our patients and their families and am always awed by their strength, their outlook, their determination, and their spirit. Yes, there are frequently sad stories or heart-wrenching moments, but all-in-all, it is a joyful environment. Our conference speakers this year will address this seeming contradiction and will discuss the role of spirituality in medicine, methods of measuring spiritual awareness, and the connection between spirituality and joyfulness as they relate to the care and treatment of pediatric patients and their families. They will also explore various approaches to enhance the spiritual care programs at different institutions.

Check out our web site at texaschildrens.org/spirituality for an overview of the speakers and their topics. I look forward to seeing you there!

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