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Growing up in Greencastle, Indiana with a philosophy professor father and a mother who taught the New Testament, Beth Watson’s childhood dinner table conversations centered around theology and justice.
“When I was in high school, my mother trained in pastoral counseling,” Watson recalls. “She told me about the work that she was doing with the dying. She would spend time with them as they talked about the meaning of their lives and how they were feeling about their sickness. I couldn’t think of anything that sounded more important or meaningful.”
And with that, Watson decided to follow in her mother’s footsteps, ultimately winding her way to become the current director of Spiritual Care and Chaplaincy at Indiana University Health.
Rewinding back, however, Watson, says it’s been a gratifying journey. After high school, Watson chose to attend a seminary affiliated with Elizabeth Kugler Ross, who wrote books about death and dying, and did her clinical training for hospital chaplaincy at The University of Chicago and Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. As a United Methodist minister, she received special clinical training in interfaith ministry to care for people of all faiths or no faith.
Now, Watson facilitates the ministries of people in her department at IU Health and Riley Hospital for Children. She meets with managers and chaplains, hearing stories about their patient care. Occasionally, she will see a patient. Watson also provides workplace chaplaincy, visiting with people throughout all three hospitals who speak with her about the meaning of their work.
When not working, Watson enjoys life as a mother to two grown children – a 25-year-old son and 22-year-old daughter, helping at her local parish, attending movies and concerts with her husband, and walking her three dogs at the nature park in an effort to take 10,000 steps a day. She also loves to travel and cook, crediting The New York Times’s food section as her inspiration.
“I love the interdisciplinary nature of this work,” she says. “I like working with a community of people who are working hard to heal patients and care for patients’ families. I find that work exhilarating.”
-- By Gia Miller