The Institute for Spirituality and Health Honored Nine Healthcare Professionals at 31st Annual Nursing Conference on Oct. 13

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HOUSTON, Texas (Oct. 13, 2023) — The Institute for Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center (The Institute) proudly hosted its 31st Annual Nursing Conference on Friday, October 13, 2023. The event, titled “Building Bridges at the End of Life: Communication, Care, and Meaning,” was a resounding success, drawing nearly 100 local healthcare professionals from diverse medical institutions across Texas. The conference was held at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, located at 5501 Main St., Houston, Texas.

The highlight of this remarkable gathering was the presentation of the prestigious Emma and Emily Josephine Spirituality in Nursing Award. Nine distinguished healthcare professionals from various medical institutions were recognized for their outstanding commitment to integrating spirituality into nursing care. For photos please visit this Dropbox link. The deserving awardees are as follows:
Amy O. Calvin, Ph.D., RN (UT Cizik School of Nursing)
Tracy Heiberg, BSN, BA, RN, CCRN (Houston Methodist)
Patricia Horace, RN (Faith Community Nursing)
Emily Jamieson, RN, CHPN (MD Anderson)
Rosha Joshi, PhD(c), MS, SPRN, FNP-BC (Prairie View A&M University)
Torina Lane, PhD, RN (Lone Star College)
Shirley Lemons, BSN, RN, CNOR (Texas Children’s Hospital)
Denise Martin, DNP, RN, NEA-BC (Memorial Hermann)
Angeles Neva, PhD, RN (Texas Woman’s University)

“The connection between spirituality and health is profound, especially during life’s most delicate and precious moments. This year’s Nursing Conference theme, ‘Building Bridges at the End of Life: Communication, Care, and Meaning,’ underscores the significance of compassionate care as adults and children approach the dying process,” commented Stuart Nelson, acting president and executive vice president of the Institute. “We are proud to honor nurses who embody spirituality, compassion, communication, and commitment – values that our Nursing Award’s namesake, Emma Josephine Loffelholz McMorris, demonstrated throughout her years of nursing.”

Emma Josephine Loeffelholz McMorris was a vivacious woman who passed away from breast cancer in 1958, just one month after her diagnosis. Emma McMorris graduated from nursing school in 1943 and served as a member of the Oklahoma Nurses Association. She also served as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy Nurses Corps during World War II and remained active in their local church until her death. Emma McMorris played a key role in linking awareness and appreciation for the spiritual aspect of a patient’s journey. By acknowledging expressions of spiritual longing and making referrals for spiritual care, nurses can provide more comprehensive and compassionate care for both patients and healthcare professionals alike.

Collaborating with several Texas Medical Center hospitals, The Institute has hosted this conference specifically for nurses for the past 31 years. The conference is designed to address topics including end-of-life care with Hospice, awareness and valuing the spiritual side of a patient’s journey, and love and grief at the end of life. Attendees had the opportunity to:
Identify strategies for communicating with patients and families at the end of life.
Explore the significance of meaning at the end of life.
Discuss approaches to end-of-life care across diverse faith traditions.
Explore end-of-life communication tools, including the FICA framework (Faith, Importance/Influence, Community, Action/Address in care).

Featured speakers and their topics included:
Debi Boyle, Master of Science in Nursing, Registered Nurse, Advanced Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist Emeritus, Fellow of the American Nursing Academy: “Reflections on the bridge over Healthcare’s troubled water”
Luke Patrick O’Connell, PhD, Teacher of philosophy and theology: “Lyonsheart: Theology of love and grief at the end of life”
Rev. Dr. Gale Francine Kennebrew: Director of Spiritual Care and Education at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, “This Is No Ordinary Love”

Virgil Fry, Doctor of Ministry and director of the Interfaith Spiritual Care Coalition at The Institute, moderated a panel discussion titled, “End of Life Care Approaches Across Faith Traditions.” Panelists included:
Konjin Gaelyn Godwin, Abbott, Houston Zen Center
Dr. Basem Hamid, Physician and Founder, Wasat Institute

The Institute is grateful to these healthcare organizations and educational institutions for their participation in this year’s nursing conference.
Houston Methodist
Lone Star College Montgomery
MD Anderson Cancer Center
Memorial Hermann
Prairie View A&M University
Texas Children’s Hospital
Texas Woman’s University Nelda C. Stark College of Nursing
UTHealth Cizik School of Nursing
UTMB Health School of Nursing

For media inquiries and questions please contact Pennino and Partners (details above).
For more information and to explore future events, please visit

About The Institute
The Institute for Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center (ISH) was established in 1955 as the Institute of Religion and was a founding member of the world-renowned Texas Medical Center. For 68 years, the Institute has made a meaningful difference by cultivating heart and humanity in healthcare. From its very inception, the Institute has been dedicated to the concept that spirituality plays a vital role in health, healing, and the promotion of a sense of well-being. The mission of the Institute for Spirituality and Health is to enhance well-being by exploring the relationship between spirituality and health. The Institute advances this mission by engaging in education, research, and direct service programs, both public and private, guided by its Four Centers of Excellence. For more information about the Institute, visit

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