(UWest Chaplaincy student, Ven. Chandasara leading a meditation session at CHLA. Photo courtesy of CHLA.)
In the early 2010s, Rev. Dr. Jitsujo Gauthier was a PhD student at University of the West. She did her dissertation research on mindfulness-based intervention for pediatric ICU nurses at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA). The conclusion of the research showed the benefits of integrating meditation into the medical setting.
Dr. Jitsujo is now UWest’s Chair of the Buddhist Chaplaincy Department. Her study was the first of its kind to address nurse stress and burnout through a mindfulness intervention as spiritual care. The findings had practical ramifications in terms of on-the-job self-care and stress-reduction. The research further demonstrated the efficacy of Buddhist practice within healthcare specifically and in the wider workplace generally.
It was from this research that Dr. Jitsujo cultivated an ongoing partnership between UWest and CHLA that continues to this day. As part of their service-learning curriculum, UWest students in the Buddhist Chaplaincy Department rotate as facilitators for guided meditations every Tuesday in the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation Interfaith Center at CHLA.
These meditation sessions are routinely attended by nurses, doctors, facilities personnel, lab researchers, and other hospital employees. During the shutdown prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the meditation sessions were held virtually. The program recently resumed an in-person format, and UWest students once again help facilitate a much needed service, as related in a new article published on CHLA’s website.
Service-learning is an important part of Buddhist Chaplaincy students’ training, offering valuable hands-on experience while allowing them to gain confidence as spiritual care providers. Indeed, the rigors of UWest’s three-year Master of Divinity in Buddhist Chaplaincy program more than prepare graduates to be effective chaplains, as UWest graduates hold such positions as Hospice Chaplain at Providence Health & Services (Portland, OR), Assistant Dean for Multireligious Ministry at Harvard Divinity School, and the only Buddhist Chaplain in the U.S. Navy, to name a few.
Moreover, Buddhist pedagogy and praxis have been consistently popularized and applied in diverse settings, as exemplified by the explosion of the mindfulness and meditation within the wellness industry. According to Data Bridge Market Research, the US mediation market is now estimated to be worth $1B and will grow to $9B by 2027. Demand for self-care and stress-reduction is robust, to say the least.
It is becoming never clearer that well-being includes all three aspects of physical, mental, and spiritual health. UWest Chaplaincy students are doing their part to help at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.