Dr. Earlexia Norwood is recognized as one of metro Detroit’s best doctors, but when it comes to healing,  she is fueled by faith.

“I believe in the ability of God to work within people,” said Norwood, who works with the Henry Ford Medical Center in Troy, Michigan, a Detroit suburb. “My practice could not exist without prayer.”

“Norwood prays daily,” reports Detroit Free Press staff writer Cassandra Spratling. “Sometimes before seeing patients. Occasionally, with them.”

“I ask God to give me the wisdom and understanding I need to … uncover anything that is hidden,” Norwood told Spratling. “For patients going through a terminal illness, I pray because I know they need more than the science and medicine I can provide.”

For believers like Norwood, faith in a higher power long has been considered a healing balm. But now, a growing body of medical research — including a recent Wayne State University study — is validating the power of faith.

“Sure, there are examples of neurotic, excessive people who go to faith healers and stop taking their medicine,” said Dr. Harold G. Koenig, director of Duke University’s Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health. “But, overall, we have to recognize that there are many health benefits to be gleaned from looking at and appreciating people’s faith.”

However, Norwood and Koenig are not alone in their views, writes Spratling:

Each Wednesday, more than 250 people attend the Blessing of the Sick service at the Solanus Casey Center on Detroit’s east side. They pray for the healing of themselves or people they love.

Recently, Katie Valenti, 28, was among the faithful who gathered at the center. The Plymouth native was in town visiting from Mandeville, La.

In January, Valenti was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. She has had two surgeries and eight rounds of chemotherapy and will undergo radiation therapy in August. Faith always has been important to the Valenti family, but the cancer has given them even more reason to pray.

There was a time when medicine and faith had clear borders. Doctors treated the physical body and religious leaders fed the spiritual body. But thanks to a growing body of research and the increased presence of health practitioners whose faith is part of their practice, religion and medicine are joining forces in ways far beyond the hospital chaplain.

“There is a fair amount of science to substantiate the power of prayer, belief and spirituality to positively impact the healing process,” said Dr. Michael Seidman, medical director of the Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine at the Henry Ford Health System. “It matters not what you believe. It matters that you believe.”


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