New Le Bonheur center to merge health, faith


Special to the Advocate

MEMPHIS — Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare has launched a center to advance health by bringing faith and health together for the improved wellbeing of thousands of patients. 


The Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare Center of Excellence in Faith and Health was announced April 24 at a news conference at the health system’s flagship hospital, Methodist University Hospital, where the center will be housed.


“The spirit of faith and healing pervades Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare. It’s in our DNA,” said Gary S. Shorb, president and chief executive officer. “Our goal is to dramatically enhance quality of care and support for our patients and their families. We believe that the coupling of faith and health can not only elevate the level of care we deliver to our patients, but also improve quality of life for our community and beyond.”


“In the past two decades, a growing body of evidence has emerged that shows that patients who are active participants in a worshipping community have significantly better health outcomes,” said Gary R. Gunderson, senior vice president of health and welfare ministries and an ordained minister. “Other studies indicate that patients in hospitals receiving skilled spiritual care are able to be released more quickly and return less often than those receiving either no spiritual care, or untrained spiritual care.”


One of the first tangible outcomes of the Center of Excellence in Faith and Health is a partnership resulting in the “Leading Causes of Life” Webinar series. Based on the recent book by that name authored by Gunderson and Larry Pray, the Webinars equip viewers with a language of life – giving ways to identify life in ourselves and our communities. To view the Webinars, log on to and click on the Webcast icon.


The Center of Excellence in Faith and Health is an interfaith center of research, innovation and training. Working with partners both locally and all over the world, the center has a multi-tiered approach including: identifying and linking local community faith resources; providing support and resources to clergy; enhancing the patient experience within the walls of the hospital, and collaborative research with international experts on faith and health. 


The center calls for a large new physical space at the front entrance of the hospital. MLH announced that a $1 million founding gift by local ophthalmologist and philanthropist Dr. Ralph Hamilton and wife Barbara, a longtime Methodist volunteer, will fund the creation of the physical space. The development of the space will require another half million in philanthropy to be raised by the Methodist Healthcare Foundation. Those funds will be matched by Methodist. The system budgets about $3 million each year for faith and health.


The Center of Excellence in Faith and Health will be housed in 20,000 square feet of renovated space at the hospital’s front entrance and will include:

  • Transformation of the intensive care unit waiting room into a state-of-the-art family-centered healing environment with a quiet area, laundry rooms and showers for family members as well as space for local clergy to counsel their members.
  • A resource center for family members and congregational visitors to equip them to care for patients needing continuing care after hospitalization.
  • An indoor interfaith chapel to accommodate and embrace all faiths.
  • A meditation garden with water features, a labyrinth and sacred prayer space.
  • A chaplain on call 24 hours-a-day.


In addition, the center will serve as the hub for Methodist’s many faith and health initiatives outside its walls.