Spirituality and Philosophy

A Fresh Start

Sallie Felton

A Fresh Start – WHY HELPING OTHERS DOES THE BODY GOOD!

The other day I helped a very elderly couple with their mountains of bird seed to their car. They were taken back by my offering and yet so very grateful. What actually happens when we begin to help others both mentally and physically?

Stephen G. Post is Professor of Preventive Medicine, Head of the Division of Medicine in Society, and Director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook University. He was previously (1988-2008) Professor of Bioethics, Religion and Philosophy, School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, and Senior Research Scholar at the Becket Institute of St. Hugh’s College, Oxford University. Post is a Senior Fellow in the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University.

Since the late 1980s Post has focused on issues surrounding the care of persons with developmental cognitive disabilities and dementia. He is an elected member of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Panel of Alzheimer’s Disease International, and was recognized for “distinguished service” by the Association’s National Board for educational efforts for Association Chapters and families throughout the United States (1998). In 2003 Post was elected a Member of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia for “distinguished contributions to medicine.” His book entitled The Moral Challenge of Alzheimer Disease: Ethical Issues from Diagnosis to Dying (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000, 2nd edition) was designated a “medical classic of the century” by the British Medical Journal in 2009.

He is equally recognized as a leader in the study of altruism, love, and compassion in the integrative context of scientific research, philosophy, and spirituality. He is President of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, an Ohio-based 501 (c)(3) established in July 2001 with support from philanthropist John Templeton and the Templeton Foundation. The Institute has supported high level empirical research at more than fifty universities on topics related to unselfish love and its origins. Post became interested in these topics while a youth at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, where he studied the theology of agape love with the distinguished African-American Rev. John T. Walker, who later became Dean of the National Cathedral. Post worked in biological research before completing his Ph.D. on the relationship between other-regarding love and happiness at the University of Chicago under James M. Gustafson, where he was an elected University Fellow, a preceptor in the Pritzker School of Medicine, and a Fellow in the Martin E. Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion. He received the Hope in Healthcare Award in 2008 for his “pioneering research and education in the field of unconditional love, altruism, compassion, and service.” He was included in Best American Spiritual Writing (2005), and in 2008 he was the recipient of the Kama Book Award in Medical Humanities from World Literacy Canada. Post is an elected member of the International Society for Science and Religion, and writes a blog for Psychology Today entitled “The Joy of Giving.”

Post has published over 150 articles in peer-reviewed journals such as Science, The International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, Annals of Internal Medicine, The Journal of Religion, The American Journal of Psychiatry, The Journal of the American Medical Association, and The Lancet. He has written seven scholarly books on altruism and love, and is also the editor of eight other books, including Altruism & Health: Perspectives from Empirical Research, and Altruism and Altruistic Love: Science, Philosophy and Religion in Dialogue, both published by Oxford University Press. His most recent book, published with Jossey-Bass (2011), is The Hidden Gifts of Helping: How the Power of Giving, Compassion, and Hope Can Get Us Through Hard Times. In 2007 Post was lead author of the blockbuster book, published with Broadway Books/Random House, Why Good Things Happen to Good People: How to Live a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life by the Simple Act of Giving, with a Foreword by Rev. Otis Moss, Jr. His research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

A public intellectual committed to conveying important ideas in the wider culture, Post has appeared on a diverse range of radio and television programs including Nightline, 20/20, and National Public Radio. Post is sought after as a public speaker by community and professional groups, and is the recipient of the “Top Notch Public Speaker Award” from the Ohio Endowment for the Humanities.

Post is a lifelong member of the Episcopal Church. His grandfather, Edwin Main Post, was the husband of Emily Post by his first marriage. He is currently a Trustee of the John Templeton Foundation (2008-2011).