He practices medicine at perhaps the nation's top hospital and is internationally renowned for his development of an operation that allows men whose prostates are removed to retain sexual function. But a key component of the care that urologist Patrick Walsh provides patients has little to do with the latest information garnered from medical journals, conferences, or his colleagues at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Indeed, when Dr. Walsh talks to patients about a higher authority, he doesn't mean the New England Journal of Medicine editorial board.
When Walsh makes his hospital rounds, the seemingly distinct, even opposite, worlds of medicine and religion coalesce. Convinced that his patients require attention to the spiritual as much as the physical, Walsh ever so gently asks if they believe in God.
"I'm solidly grounded in my own [Catholic] faith. When I'm sick I turn to my own faith," Walsh says. "I feel there is no more appropriate time to have those discussions" than when patients are sick.
The conventional wisdom is that doctors don't pray for anything but a hole in one on the golf course, or that their patients' checks will clear. But whether it's doctors who pray with their patients or simply inquire as to their religious beliefs, physicians have in recent years grown amenable to the notion that prayer is good medicine.
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