Former first lady Laura Bush speaks to a crowd at Houston Methodist to announce The Center for Health & Nature.

Center for Health & Nature to Launch at Methodist

Center for Health & Nature to Launch at Methodist

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A new Center for Health & Nature to be housed at Houston Methodist Hospital will be anchored by the belief that nature is essential to healing and well-being.

“There’s a gap in research regarding what nature factors lead to increased health, what exposure to nature means and how much exposure is needed,” said former first lady Laura Bush on Wednesday, during a celebration to launch the project at Methodist’s new Walter Tower. “So I’m thrilled to be here today to announce the Center for Health & Nature, which will help fill these research gaps by partnering with one of the best academic institutions and one of the best health care institutions in our great state.”

Marc Boom, M.D., president and CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital, with former first lady Laura Bush.

Houston Methodist Hospital, the Texas A&M University System and Texan by Nature, a nonprofit conservation group founded by Laura Bush, will work together on the center’s four goals:

-Creating a Health & Nature Healing Garden at Houston Methodist to give patients and caregivers access to nature within their health care environment.

-Convening an annual Health & Nature Symposium that gathers national and international research experts to explore the effects of nature on human health and healing.

-Launching a pilot research program that will explore the health effects of nature on cardiovascular wellness and healing. The first research project will study the effect of the exposure to nature on women 65 and older with certain types of heart failure.

-Creating the Center for Health & Nature Collaborative Research Fund to bolster health and nature research projects that advance the center’s mission.

Texas A&M landscape architecture student Phillip Hammond, who created the winning design for the Health & Nature Healing Garden, with Laura Bush.

Texas A&M landscape architecture students competed to design the Health & Nature Healing Garden. The top three designs were displayed at the Wednesday celebration and a winner was announced. Phillip Hammond won the contest with his “Glory Gardens” design, inspired, in part, by his own relationship with nature.

“I grew up in Austin, Texas, and I really just liked going on UT campus when I was in middle school,” Hammond said. “I would study out there and my favorite thing was the Texas mountain laurels. When you spend enough time around these flowers that are constantly blooming in the spring, it kind of makes you really close to nature, even though you’re in the heart of the city. So I wanted to carry that over into my design with bringing in pollinators and natural wildlife even though we’re in the heart of Houston.”

The garden will be part of phase II of the building expansion of Walter Tower, Methodist’s new 22-story patient tower, said Marc Boom, M.D., president and CEO of Methodist Hospital. That expansion, he added, “we expect and hope to begin in the very near future.”

John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, said “the garden will serve as a lab for our research on burnout rates and stress, and it will be a place for patients, families and health care workers to relax and recharge.”

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