Outlook: A Quarterly Newsletter of the Society of Behavorial Medicine
Spring/Summer 2009 Return to Outlook Main page >>

Spirituality and Health SIG Update

Kevin S. Masters, PhD, Spirituality and Health SIG Chair

A few years ago I decided that I needed to be more specific in my area of research, so I determined that I would focus on projects involving religiousness/spirituality (R/S). It didn't take long before I became known locally as the guy who does R/S research; people began contacting me to help out with R/S work in their particular area. I soon discovered that I hadn't really limited my research at all. It turns out that R/S issues are pertinent to nearly every topic in behavioral medicine. Upon a moment's reflection, it became clear to me that this should have been obvious all along, because the constructs encompassed by R/S research are inherent in the people being studied, not the disease or illness process, and often take a place of central importance in their lives.

So, what's the point for you? One exciting aspect of our SIG is that we have members carrying out work in areas spanning the behavioral medicine spectrum. Just for fun I gave myself 30 seconds to jot down a list of topics of which I am aware there is significant work going on that integrates, even focuses on, R/S factors. I came up with the following: cardiovascular disease, cancer, prevention, coping with illness, HIV/AIDS, prayer and health, and immigrant health. Remember, I only had 30 seconds! If you haven't considered R/S in your area of work, I encourage you to do so. We have an active listserv and if you are searching for collaborators, this is an excellent place to post a message. Or you could attend one of our SIG functions at SBM's 31st Annual Meeting & Scientific Session in Seattle, WA.

Just what are these conference activities? The SIG annually hosts a breakfast roundtable. This is a terrific way to meet folks and find out what is happening in the world of spirituality and health. All present make introductions, briefly discuss their lines of work, and provide contact information for follow up. We recently started the tradition of holding a mid-day meeting where we invite one of our members to present his/her work but we are also sure to leave time for socializing. Members of our SIG regularly make presentations at SBM, and last year we held a symposium featuring the winner and those receiving honorable mention for our Early Investigator Award for Spirituality and Health Research. For the record, Maureen R. Benjamins, PhD from Sinai Urban Health Institute was our winner and honorable mention went to Cheryl L. Holt, PhD from University of Maryland and Amy B. Wachholtz, PhD, MDiv from University of Massachusetts Medical Center. The SIG also e-publishes a newsletter three times per year (contact Barbara A. Bremer, PhD at bab12@psu.edu if you would like to receive our newsletter or contribute to it). Our SIG ranks right in the middle in terms of size but we are way over the top in terms of fun and activity. We would love to have you join us. Feel free to contact me at kemaster@syr.edu or our chair-elect Crystal Park at crysdara@aol.com if you would like more information or simply want to make a contact. And remember the newsletter!

See you in Seattle!