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Honoring Dr. George Fitchett's Legacy

Honoring Dr. George Fitchett's Legacy Image
Raised toward our $100,000 Goal
75 Donors
Project has ended
Project ended on December 31, at 11:59 PM CST
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Honor Dr. George Fitchett’s Legacy and Ensure the Future of Chaplaincy Research

Honor Dr. George Fitchett: An Innovator in Chaplaincy Research

George Fitchett, DMin, PhD is devoted to examining the relationship between religion and health in various community and clinic populations. He has spent his entire career at RUSH, beginning as a chaplain in 1975 and, since 1990, developing and leading the Department of Religion, Health and Human Values’ research program which is one of the world's leading — and first — centers for health and spiritual care research. As a leader in transforming the profession, he spearheaded this research focus in chaplaincy, driven by a mission to provide the most effective spiritual care possible for patients, families, and health care staff.

In 2015, Dr. Fitchett and RUSH partnered with Wendy Cadge, PhD (Brandeis University) to co-found and co-lead the Transforming Chaplaincy program, based at RUSH. Its mission is to promote evidence-based spiritual care and integrate research into professional practice and education by fostering a culture of inquiry. In 2019, Dr. Fitchett became Transforming Chaplaincy’s director and has grown its reach to include nine research networks and thousands of participants invested in studies and educational activities to advance research literacy and evidence-based practice among health care chaplains.

In late 2022, Dr. Fitchett announced he would step down as director of Transforming Chaplaincy and director of research at RUSH’s Department of Religion, Health and Human Values to transition leadership to experienced chaplain and research literacy educator Csaba Szilagyi, MDiv, MLA, MS. Dr. Fitchett will continue to serve as Transforming Chaplaincy’s senior advisor. The chaplaincy community is deeply grateful for Dr. Fitchett’s leadership and contributions to integrating a culture of research and inquiry into the profession. Now, we look forward to a future of continued progress with Szilagyi’s guidance.

"Research helps us answer: How do I know that the care I provided today was the best possible care I could give?” 
— George Fitchett, DMin, PhD
Professor in the Department of Religion, Health and Human Values 

Support A New Era to Advance Evidence-Based Spiritual Care

In fiscal year 2022 alone, 33 research projects gained ground with support from Transforming Chaplaincy. Though this number is impressive, many questions that require research to answer remain. “The importance of an evidence-based approach to spiritual care continues to grow, as does the interest in this work,” Dr. Fitchett said. 

With more work to be done to elevate the field of chaplaincy through research and training the next generation of chaplains, philanthropic support is more critical than ever. Support for Transforming Chaplaincy funds the following initiatives, among others:

Advancing research to improve spiritual care

Chaplaincy — like any field in health care — is a specialty that requires research, and research involves funding for personnel, equipment, and associated costs. Transforming Chaplaincy facilitates the following nine research networks that bring together nearly 2,000 members seeking to advance spiritual care in the following broad areas: 

  • Chaplaincy Functions
  • Chronic Illness/Disease
  • Outpatient
  • Hospice and Palliative Spiritual Care
  • Pediatrics
  • PTSD, Moral Injury and Spiritual Distress
  • Spiritual Care Management
  • Elder Care
  • Psychedelic Care

Providing top-notch training for new and tenured chaplains

An evidence-based approach to care requires adequate training. To prepare chaplains to be more effective in their work and improve the quality of their spiritual care relationships, Transforming Chaplaincy offers specialized training programs, including the following:

  • A certificate program in Spiritual Care Management and Leadership that prepares current and future spiritual care managers to lead dynamic and effective spiritual care programs in a rapidly changing healthcare environment.
  • Online courses on research literacy for chaplains and CPE students
  • An in-person Chaplaincy Research Summer Institute to help chaplains develop research literacy, become familiar with chaplaincy research, and network with other colleagues engaged in research.
  • Resources for chaplains, educators, health care administrators, and researchers

Ensure the Future of Chaplaincy Research and Education

As RUSH and Transforming Chaplaincy welcome a new research director and a new era of work to advance evidence-based spiritual care, the need for philanthropic support is acute. As Szilagyi said, “Advancing evidence-based spiritual care is a shared work greater than any one person or organization.”

To celebrate George’s career and build the future of Transforming Chaplaincy, our goal is to raise funds to collectively match the generous $50,000 gift from Reverend David Johnson. David says, "The days of a heart-rendering story having an impact on whether to hire or keep a chaplain are over.  In my 40 years as a chaplain and clinical educator, I have watched that transition take effect.  Today the profession needs to prove its place at the table with evidence-based results."

To recognize George’s many contributions and advance the mission of Transforming Chaplaincy, we hope you will consider sharing a note of gratitude and gift to honor him. 

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