Former first lady Laura Bush continues legacy of promoting nature at inaugural symposium

Former first lady Laura Bush honored the memory of her in-laws—President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush, who both died in 2018—and love of nature this month during Houston Methodist Hospital’s inaugural Center for Health and Nature Symposium.

In May, Houston Methodist, Texas A&M University and Texan by Nature announced the center’s opening with the mission to enhance health and healing through nature.

“When I was here last year for the launch of the Center for Health and Nature, my father-in-law, President George H.W. Bush, was a patient here at Houston Methodist,” Mrs. Bush remarked at the symposium. “Houston Methodist provided exceptional care for both my mother-in-law and father-in-law and, for that, I am sincerely grateful. As everyone knows, we lost them both last year. We celebrated their beautiful lives with services in Washington, D.C., and here in Houston and College Station.”

The symposium welcomed wildlife experts, doctors and researchers to discuss how nature can be implemented in a hospital setting as well as the possibilities of virtual reality bringing nature indoors to enhance the patient experience.

“You are the essential group—the leaders in your communities—who want to prove that the connection between health and nature truly makes people happier, healthier and more prosperous,” she told the audience.

She also discussed her personal connection to nature.

“Like many of you, I was inspired by the conservationists and naturalists in my life including my mother-in-law, who was proud of her cottage garden in Kennebunkport, Maine,” Bush said. “In Midland, I learned to enjoy the outdoors from my mother who, if she was not reading, could be found outside. My mother was a knowledgeable, self-taught naturalist who remembered the name of every wildflower and was passionate about birds.”

To push their work further and provide funding for research, the Center for Health and Nature invited experts to submit proposals to promote nature and healing in their respective hospitals and fields.

Chanam Lee, Ph.D. a landscape architecture and urban planning professor in Texas A&M’s Center for Health Systems and Design, presented Urban Green (Infra)structure for Pedestrian Health—an initiative to promote walking.

Renee Stubbins, Ph.D., senior research oncology dietitian at Houston Methodist Hospital, and Xiaohui Xu, Ph.D., department head and associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, presented Virtual Reality Gardening and Stress Prevention for Oncology Patients:Bring Nature Indoors.

Galen Newman, Ph.D., an associate professor of landscape architecture and urban planning at Texas A&M, presented Developing a Tool for Measuring Landscape Performance on Public Health,and Zhipeng Lu, Ph.D., a senior lecturer and associate director of the Texas A&M department of architecture and Center for Health Systems and Design, presented the Influences of Virtual Window on Hospital Patients’ and Caregivers’ Health and Well-being.

“The relationship between health and nature is strong and the Center for Health and Nature has the potential to discover life-changing and lifesaving information. Much of the data you heard today will advance the research on health and nature significantly,” Bush said. “As President Bush and Barbara Bush have taught us, all we know we have is now. The choices we make now will shape the world for the next generation and that is why I thank each one of you for joining us today for our annual Center for Health and Nature Symposium. Your participation ensures that our children and grandchildren will experience the joys and benefits of being in natures so they can live happy, healthy and active lives.”