Spirituality/Medicine Interface Project

Physician's Perspective Combining Spirituality and Medicine: One Physician's Approach

Authors: Roger D. Smalligan, MD, MPH


An increasing number of publications in recent years have examined the importance of physicians taking into consideration a patient’s religious or spiritual background in the practice of medicine in an effort to provide more holistic care. Koenig has succinctly described reasons why it is not only reasonable but important for physicians to engage patients on spiritual issues and has proposed some guidelines and caveats for doing so.1 Curlin and Hall have recently proposed that a new “ethic of friendship, marked by wisdom, candor, and respect” be applied in physician-patient encounters when it comes to the discussion of religion and spirituality.2 In this commentary I will describe how I integrate spirituality into the daily practice of internal medicine.

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1. Koenig HG. Religion, spirituality, and medicine: research findings and implications for clinical practice. South Med J. 97:1194–200, 2004 Dec.
2. Curlin FA, Hall DE. Strangers or friends? A proposal for a new spirituality-in-medicine ethic. J Gen Intern Med. 20:370–4, 2005 Apr.
3. Gallup, GG, Lindsay DM. Surveying the Religious Landscape: Trends in US Beliefs. Harrisburg, PA Morehouse Publishing, 1999.
4. Luckhaupt SE, Yi MS, Mueller CV, Mrus JM, Peterman AH, Puchalski CM, Tsevat J. Beliefs of primary care residents regarding spirituality and religion in clinical encounters with patients: A Study at a Midwestern U.S. Teaching Institution. Acad Med. 80:560–70, 2005 Jun.