Be Well: An Inspirational Approach to Holistic Care
Written by Abby Jeffers
Dr. Timothy Pawlik has, what most would consider, a unique set of credentials. The surgical oncologist is Chair, Surgeon-in-Chief, and Professor in the Department of Surgery in The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. In addition to his numerous other degrees and accolades, he has a master’s degree in theological studies from the Harvard Divinity School. In both his personal life and clinical work, he noticed that spiritual practices are rarely incorporated into oncology patients’ care experiences, despite the fact that a cancer diagnosis spurs existential and spiritual distress for many patients, regardless of cancer type or stage.
Seeking to find a sustainable, scalable solution to this gap in patient care, Dr. Pawlik partnered with Dr. Elizabeth Palmer Kelly, a Research Scientist at The OSUCCC-James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute to first better understand the problem. In collaboration with the Pastoral Care Department at Wexner Medical Center and other physician-scientist colleagues, the pair conducted multiple studies with a variety of methodological approaches capturing the perceptions of patients, family members, and providers to see the “big picture” about both the role of spirituality and how it can be best incorporated in the care experience.
The result is MyInspiration, a desktop- and mobile-accessible website that provides a customizable and comprehensive menu of patient resources for inspirational, mindful, and spiritual content. The website houses resources sortable by belief, including Ohio’s top five religions (Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism), or type as well as information about pastoral services at The James. It is designed to enhance spiritual wellness and provide comfort and support to cancer patients, including providing daily inspiration as the name suggests. MyInspiration is still in the testing phase, including a clinical trial that began in February 2022, but has already received glowing feedback from beta testers. Additionally, Drs. Pawlik and Palmer Kelly are working with information technology, software developers, and user-experience researchers at the university to increase the functionality of MyInspiration, including the potential to aid in patient surgical decision-making, advance care planning, and further tailoring the resource to be more culturally relevant for marginalized patient populations.