As a child of the 60’s, it never seemed possible to me that today’s Blog topic would ever be flowing from my fingers onto this keyboard, but, life leads us in many directions, and four years ago my life was changed forever. I’ve always struggled with the formality and rigidity of organized religion. Having said this, however, I grew up as Beaver Cleaver. The perfect little altar boy in a family of four that demonstrated love and respect for each other at all times.
So, where is this going? Well, as a former music educator turned hospital administrator, it somehow seemed very strange to me that my fate would lead me to run a hospital and to found a research institute. The picture seemed somewhat strange, but, here it was with me in the center of the frame. When people began to gravitate to our facility, (e.g., physicians, scientists, patients), it always felt like there was a greater power at work, a larger orchestrator, conductor and/or choreographer behind the scenes.
The first five PhD’s that we recruited said that our little coal mining town in south central PA reminded them of Scotland, that they were coming here because of that. Others said that they had prayed and, in their hearts, had received permission from their God or gods to come here. One said that he actually saw this facility in his dreams years before it became a reality. Another told me that she felt goodness and caring when she entered our halls.
Well, in 2001, a Harvard M.D. by the name of Dr. Wayne London, came to visit us and began to explain that he had been following our work for four years. He explained that he believed that something wonderful was happening at the little facility that could not be explained by normal words or expressions. He described this area as "the healing hillside."
Dr. London also provided me with great relief when he explained that it was no accident that a musician was in charge because my instincts had led me assemble an ensemble of players who could provide unique and beautiful healing sounds through their science and their work. He also told me to stay humble because something much larger than me was trying to work through me.
If that wasn’t enough, I was walking through Key West with my family when my daughter pushed me into a soothsayer’s chair and then ran from the scene of the crime. The middle aged woman looked down, looked back up and said, "You have been placed on this earth to bring great healing to the world." Nearly a year later, another happenstance placed me in a chair in front of a wonderful woman who looked me deeply in the eyes and said, "I knew you were coming here. God is doing his work through you. You will help bring healing and cures to tens of thousands of people."
Okay, if you’re still reading, all three of these people freaked me out completely, but during the past five years our infection rate has dropped to a level that is, on average, consistently around or below 1%. That’s eight points less than the 9% national average. It was an interesting enough finding that a group of environmental scientists from Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, The University of Pittsburgh, and Penn State received a grant to study our hospital in order to attempt to determine what exactly is going on regarding this issue.
If that is not enough, we have also begun serious testing of vaccines that are being developed collaboratively with our military partners for breast, colon and prostate cancers. To date, the results have been nothing short of miraculous.
Finally, we have been running a program for the past five years that reverses heart disease through diet, exercise group support and stress management.
What’s it all about? Well, our vision, our mission, our goals and our communications are all based on the spiritual connectivity of humankind with one another and with a universe that is larger than any mere mortal can grasp. It’s based on a spirituality that embraces the thought that race, religion, nationality and political beliefs are all moot points here. It’s based on the love and respect that have become our drivers.
We have recently been nominated as one of the top 50 places to work in the country, and, if we’re selected, I’m not sure what that may end up meaning to our facilities or our employees, but it is clear to me that it will mean that someone, somewhere may ask us just how this has happened, and I will be the first to tell you that The Windber Research Institute and Windber Medical Center were both just a dream, and now, their reality is setting a pace to begin to change our medical world. So, don’t turn away from spirituality. It may be just exactly what the doctor ordered.