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Leadership Blog

Cultivating a Culture of Humankindness in Health Care

By Doug Lawson, PhD, CEO of St. Luke’s Health

July 19, 2023 Posted in: Dr. Lawson Blogs , Leadership


At St. Luke’s Health, the foundation of our mission is the desire to bring health and healing to all people. This vision is driven by a shared belief in humankindness: the philosophy that while medicine has the ability to cure, it is our shared humanity and human connection that has the power to heal body, mind and spirit. 

With an unwavering dedication to this mission throughout our organization, we celebrate and embrace the diversity of our communities, treating everyone who walks through our doors with empathy, respect and dignity. We strive to make humankindness a rallying cry for health care organizations throughout Texas—and the country—to ensure all people feel safe, seen and supported when receiving care, no matter who they are, where they live or how much money they have.

The Power of Kindness

When we enter a health care facility, we’re not just looking for medical care. We’re also looking for compassion, the feeling that we matter and the people helping us understand what we’re going through and are dedicated to our well-being. Simple acts of kindness go a long way towards achieving this feeling of connection. In fact, research has proven that kindness actually improves health and well-being, both for the receiver and the giver.

Recent studies show us that when a health care professional expresses genuine care and compassion toward a patient, a feeling of connection and trust forms between the two of them. In turn, patients experience less fear and stress, which helps to improve outcomes and overall health. This connection also encourages patients to engage in their own care, something every physician wants.

Likewise, the health care professionals who show kindness and concern toward others may also experience many health benefits. Studies have revealed people who volunteer regularly have lower markers of inflammation and are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors. Although clinicians and other health care workers aren’t volunteering their time, helping others in any capacity tends to make people feel happier and more connected. These mental health benefits have been linked to lower risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Spreading Support

At SLH, our goal is to uphold our belief in the healing value of human connection both inside and outside of our health care organization. The St. Luke’s Foundation does this by providing programs and services that support the people of our community. The goal is ensure all members of our team have the tools and knowledge to help people to the best of their ability. Here are a few examples: 

  1. Protecting Others During the Pandemic

    While we are dedicated to showing humankindness at all times, the COVID-19 pandemic gave our team members ample opportunities to promote this philosophy more than ever before. Time and again, team members put others before themselves. We also supported initiatives to help protect people in any way possible, such as creating two hubs in Houston that vaccinated more than 100,000 vulnerable residents. 

  2. Offering Training and Education

    Generous donations to the Foundation allow us to give team members valuable training and educational opportunities. Last year, members of the transplantation team were able to attend a conference held by the The International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation for a priceless learning experience they could later share with their patients and colleagues. 

    St. Luke’s Health–Memorial in Lufkin is also working to address the dire shortage of physicians in Deep East Texas by creating a graduate medical education residency program in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. 

  3. Providing Help for Grieving Families

    When women face the devastating experience of delivering a baby who is no longer living, having extra time with the baby after delivery can mean a great deal to the mother and family. At St. Luke’s Health–The Vintage Hospital, staff spoke to leadership about securing a CuddleCot system, a unit that keeps babies cool in a bassinet or swaddling blanket to delay deterioration so loved ones can spend more time with their infant. Our collaboration with Ashlie’s Embrace, a nonprofit organization that connects hospitals with families who want to donate toward a CuddleCot system, made this possible. We are grateful for this opportunity to help comfort grieving families and to let them know we are here for them.

  4. Supporting Nurses 

    Our nurses are very special people who are dedicated to their patients and want to help them in any way possible. To show our appreciation, the Nightingale Society at The Woodlands Hospital allows nurses to attend conferences, helps with the costs of special certifications and supports scholarships for advanced nursing education and degrees. The organization provides nurses opportunities to continue to learn and grow, giving them the skills to help patients to the best of their ability. 

  5. Improving Access to Women’s Health Care

    For women, having access to 3D mammography means access to more accurate cancer detection. In the Brazos Valley, SLH recently added a fourth 3D mammogram machine to the College Station Breast Center. In addition to making mammograms more accessible to women in the area, the new equipment features the SmartCurve Breast Stabilization System, which makes the experience more comfortable without compromising quality. 

As we look ahead, our goal is to continue finding ways, both big and small, to show humankindness in everything we do for the people we care for. My hope is that all health care  systems embrace a similar mission. Together, we can provide not only the highest level of medical care, but also meaningful human connection. That’s where true healing begins. What is your organization doing to spread kindness?

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