Whenever we visit a doctor for the first time, a medical history is taken. WRAL found a doctor who years ago began taking a spiritual history as well.
This family practitioner, also a medical school professor, was stunned with what he learned, and he is passing his knowledge along to others.
Dr. Dana King practices family medicine in Greenville, N.C. He also tries to practice what he preaches.
"It's OK for you to express your faith in this office, and it's OK to be the spiritual person you are," said King.
King is not an ordained minister. He is a medical doctor who is also a man of faith. A doctor who strongly believes that prayer and faith can be a vital part of a patient's prescription.
"I've had my faith for a long time, for years. It's growing," explained King.
Something else that is growing is the number of medical school students who want to know if there really is a connection between faith and healing.
Throughout the 20th century, there has been a natural conflict between the science of medicine and the science of religion.
But as we enter the 21st century, that is changing. Now, some 50 medical schools across the country teach how the two can co-exist and together and how they can prosper.
One of those schools teaching this is theEast CarolinaSchool of Medicine in Greenville.
King is the professor.
In 1986, a patient told him she had been healed of an illness but still needed to see him. He was fascinated she was cured of one problem but not all.
So King began questioning all his patients. Did they go to church? Was faith important? How important? Had they ever been healed supernaturally?
"Seventy percent of the people said religion was the most important thing in their life," said King.
Since 1996, King has taught a course on faith and healing at the ECU School of Medicine. It's an elective for fourth year students. It is a course that points out the need to know the spiritual history of a patient.
"It's unbelievable what's happening to patients who are seriously ill, the things that they're wrestling with that sometimes we are just so obvious to," said King.
The course is part of a 12 hour curriculum now required at the University. It points out the difference between faith and healing and faith-healing.
"As much as most people believe in faith, they believe in medicine. I tell the students they believe you're part of the miracle and God is working through the medicine, the hospital," said King.
His students acknowledge asking questions about spiritual history can be awkward, particularly when the study of science demands proof, but they've seen the results.
Most recently, a study from theDuke Medical Schoolshowing a remarkable recovery rate for patients who were prayed for by people they had never met. And the study of people who attend religious services weekly are 43 percent less likely to have been hospitalized in the previous year.
"It's hard to deny all the data there is showing that people's religion affects their mental health and their physical health," said Holly Howard, a fourth year medical student. "Overall it seems to be good medicine, and people just can't deny that."
If asked, King will pray with his patients.
"That's something that I realize not all doctors are going to be comfortable with, and I don't necessarily advocate all doctors pray with their patients. That's something they will not be comfortable with especially with people of different faiths," said King.
King is convinced the needs of patients are better met when doctors learn the importance of religion and spirituality in their lives.
It is something he hopes other doctors will be teaching and preaching for many years.
The course has been taught at the ECU School of Medicine for almost four years. It has just been added as part of a 12 hour curriculum required of all medical school students.