Spiritual Health Training, Data Processing Highlight Fall Research Grants

GW researchers were awarded millions of dollars for innovative projects across the university.

December 18, 2017

George Washington University researchers across the university were awarded numerous grants to fund innovative projects this fall that range from improving data processing to training health care professionals to attend to the spiritual needs of their patients.  

Learn more about the research being done at GW:

Data Processing Innovation
A School of Engineering and Applied Science researcher was awarded $480,000 by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research for a project to optimize the way data is converted into optical fibers on computers and smartphones. Volker Sorger, an associate professor, will work in partnership with the University of California-Riverside to investigate more efficient electro-optic modulators.

Electro-optic modulators exist today, but they are power hungry large and somewhat slow. Dr. Sorger and his team plan to utilize a combination of nanophotonics, the study of the behavior of light, and novel materials like graphene and other 2-dimensional materials. They plan to explore novel physical effects that can boost the performance by several orders of magnitude.

This three-year study will support the Air Force’s mission to develop lightweight, low-power and eavesdropping resistant electro-optic devices for efficient on-board data processing. The project was awarded $887,768 between the two institutions and will bring Hispanic students together with researchers who have a record in teaching, training and transitioning Hispanic Ph.D. graduates directly into jobs that support the USAF’s goals.

“The aim is to create fruitful collaborations while supporting underrepresented groups via engaging and path-finding research,” Dr. Sorger said.

Training Clinicians to Address Spiritual Health
The GW Institute for Spirituality and Health (GWish) was awarded $750,000 by John E. Fetzer Institute Inc. to develop a collaborative model for helping clinicians and healthcare professionals better address the spiritual needs of their patients dealing with diseases like cancer.

Christina Puchalski, director of GWish and lead investigator of the four-year grant, said spiritual distress for people with serious illness is a global pandemic.

“Its critical that patients’ suffering is fully addressed –the emotional, social and spiritual suffering as well as physical pain ” she said. Illness is part of a patient’s life journey, accompanying patients in the midst of this journey helps patients feel less isolated and alone.”

GWish has developed models to help clinicians know how to address spiritual distress of their patients, Dr. Puchalski said. There is a need now for training clinicians and creating interdisciplinary leaders in spiritual care

“We really need to be able to attend to it. We have these models, and people are doing research, but one of the factors we have identified is there is not enough training, so we’re addressing the training component.”

In partnership with City of Hope, a cancer treatment and research center in Southern California, Dr. Puchalski’s team will develop an online course and  in-person “train the trainer” workshop for healthcare leaders and chaplains The workshop will launch during GWish’s annual Spirituality and Health Summer Institute in July.

“While there have been tremendous strides in addressing spiritual issues of patients with serious illness as well as a recognition of spiritual well-being as part of overall wellness, there is more work to be done to ensure that spiritual needs of patients are fully addressed by all members of the healthcare team and documented in the treatment plan as part of whole person care,” Dr. Puchalski said.

GWish is within the School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Learning & Research


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