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Chaplains’ Commitment to Spiritual Care Renewed at HealthCare Chaplaincy Network’s Annual Convocation and Two Innovators Honored

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2015 Convoation Picture

At the award ceremony (from left), Rev. Eric J. Hall, president and CEO of HCCN, Pioneer Medal recipients Larry VandeCreek and Richard Payne, and Michael H. Schoen, HCCN’s chairman. 


Chaplains renewed their commitment to spiritual care and also joined in honoring two innovators in the field at HealthCare Chaplaincy Network’s Annual Convocation in New York on May 12. The ceremony took place in the sanctuary of Temple Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue, the largest and one of the most beautiful Reform synagogues in the world. The magnificence of the setting lent a special dimension to the ceremony.

You can find the video from the entire Convocation at the link at the end of this story. Or to play the Convocation audio, please click here.

HCCN presented its Pioneer Medal for Outstanding Leadership in Health Care to Richard Payne, M.D., of Durham, N.C., an internationally-known expert in pain relief, palliative care, oncology and neurology, and the Esther Colliflower Professor of Medicine and Divinity, Duke University Divinity School in Durham; and Larry VandeCreek, D.Min., of Grand Rapids, Michigan, a trailblazing researcher for the profession of health care chaplaincy, former editor of the Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy and director of research at HCCN from 1998 to 2001.

In presenting the first medal, Rev. Eric J. Hall, HCCN’s president and CEO, called Payne an “iconic figure”” in health care. “He has a profound commitment to science and, moreover, to patients during vital points in their health care,” Hall added. “As such, he has made both enormous contributions to the field and an enormous difference in people’s lives.”

“The Pioneer Award is so meaningful to me because of the quality and reputation of the Health Care Chaplaincy,” said Payne. “I am flattered beyond belief to be included on the list of previous awardees whom I consider mentors and heroes of the practice of humanistic health care.”

“To quote Dickens,” Payne said, “It is the best of times and the worst of times in health care.” He cited the challenge of meeting demand and accountability, while more people than ever have access to health care. In looking at the health care landscape, especially in light of the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Payne offered this advice: “Changes in the way we care for those who are seriously ill and dying and their families must be patient-centric; that is, they must be based on the goals and values of the patient and respectful of their cultural and religious beliefs. We cannot allow palliative care to simply become a component of the ‘business’ of health care delivery.“

Payne is also the John B. Francis Chair in Bioethics at the Center for Practical Bioethics, Kansas City, Mo. Among his numerous accomplishments, he has more than 275 publications in his fields of expertise, has edited four books, and led the Pain and Palliative Care Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York from 1998 to 2004.

In presenting the second medal, Hall called VandeCreek a “true innovator” in the field. “His rich accomplishments have greatly advanced the field and focused a lens on the value of spiritual care in health care,” he said.

“The award is a capstone to my career,” VandeCreek said. “It validates my research efforts to describe more clearly how persons use their religion and spirituality to cope with illness and death.”

VandeCreek, the author of numerous books and journal articles,recalled his early years as a chaplain, when, he said, he felt like an outsider with the medical staff. It was an era when family medicine, which includes the social and psychological aspects of health care, was becoming acceptable, yet medical teams didn’t quite get it. The feeling was: “They (chaplains) probably won’t do any harm. Now,” said VandeCreek, “the mantra is show me your data.”

“I am gangbusters on research,” he added. “I’m happy to have been a part of the research that makes a difference.“

At the Convocation that followed, Hall led professional chaplains in the audience and those tuning in via webcast in a communal oath of recommitment to their service, which includes a pledge to “respect the religious and spiritual traditions of my patients, colleagues, as well as my own,” and “practice the art and science of spiritual care in an honorable and ethical manner.”

Listening by webcast were chaplains not only from the metro New York area but also from Arizona, California, Florida, Indiana, and Finland.

In addition HCCN chaplain Rabbi Maurice Appelbaum at New Yorki's Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center was installed in the ministry of chaplaincy care.

“The convocation ceremony comes at a time of transformation in spiritual care in health care. The invaluable contribution of spiritual care to overall wellness is gaining recognition, both in research and in practice,” said Hall. “Every day, around the world, chaplains of all faiths are nobly making their mark by listening and walking with people on their personal journeys to overcome spiritual distress.”



To access the Convocation photo album on the HCCN Facebook page please click here.

To play the Convocation audio, please click here.



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Guest Thursday, 13 August 2020