A Natural Connection: Exploring Positive Outcomes in Health and Healing Through Nature Symposium 2016


Nature is a powerful force that provides positive benefits to health – a fact supported by growing research linking exposure to nature with health and wellness. Thus, it follows that conserving nature is vital to the long-term health and well-being of our society. Accordingly, Houston Methodist & Texan by Nature co-hosted a symposium to discuss and identify gaps in the science around the mechanisms in nature that produce positive physiological and psychological health and healing benefits.

This symposium, A Natural Connection: Exploring Positive Outcomes in Health and Healing Through Nature, brought together some of the nation’s top researchers, physicians, and policymakers to share their knowledge on the connection between health and nature, highlighted some of the recent findings on the positive benefits of nature on health and wellbeing, and encouraged dialogue that will spur further research collaboration in the future. The speaker program is available on demand in the video series below.

Outcomes from this symposium produced a partnership between Houston Methodist Hospital, Texas A&M University System, and Texan by Nature to form the Center for Health & Nature. We will work together to advance health and nature research and education.

The mission of the Center for Health & Nature, a collaboration between Houston Methodist, Texan by Nature, and the Texas A&M Health Science Center, is to drive research to study the impact of nature on health with evidence-based programs that complement the full continuum of health care: prevention, treatment, and recovery.

“The symposium was a highly unusual alliance of a leading conservation organization and a leading medical center—a powerful combination in the service of human health and wellbeing. Together, I believe that Texan by Nature and Houston Methodist will advance both the science and the practice of promoting health through contact with the natural world, benefiting people across Texas and beyond.”- Howard Frumkin, M.D., Dr.P.H. Dean and Professor at the School of Public Health, University of Washington

Dr. Marc Boom

Marc Boom is the president and chief executive officer of Houston Methodist. Dr. Boom holds a B.S. in Biology with High Honors from the University of Texas at Austin and an M.D. with High Honors from Baylor College of Medicine.

Here, Dr. Boom introduces the symposium and reviews Houston Methodist’s commitment to exploring the connection between health and nature.

More on Dr. Boom

Former First Lady Laura W. Bush

Mrs. Bush is the founder of Texan by Nature and a committed conservationist. Since her childhood, Laura Bush has felt a deep sense of connection to and wonder in the natural beauty that surrounds us every day. She has made it a lifelong commitment to share this connection and engage others in helping take care of our natural world. Though her conservation efforts date back to her childhood, they truly came into public view when she was catapulted into the spotlight through her role as First Lady of the United States of America.

Here, Mrs. Bush reviews research linking health and wellbeing with exposure to nature and discusses the importance of conservation to public health.

More on Mrs. Bush

Dr. Howard Frumkin

Howard Frumkin is the former Dean and current Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, at the University of Washington School of Public Health. He is an internist, environmental and occupational medicine specialist, and epidemiologist.

In his talk, Dr. Frumkin reviews the health benefits of nature contact.

More on Dr. Frumkin

Dr. MaryCarol Hunter

MaryCarol Hunter is an Associate Professor at the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan. She is also a landscape architect and ecologist with a research program that encompasses social, psychological and ecological aspects of sustainable urban design.

In her talk, Dr. Hunter explores how nature can reduce stress symptoms.

More on Dr. Hunter

Dr. Gregory Bratman

Greg Bratman is a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University in the Center for Conservation Biology and the Stanford Psychophysiology Laboratory. He is exploring approaches for evaluating the psychological impacts of nature and how these can best be incorporated into the paradigm of ecosystem services.

In his lecture, Dr. Bratman describes environmental impacts on mood and cognition.

More on Dr. Bratman

Dr. Ahmed Tawakol

Ahmed Tawakol is a cardiologist with a clinical and research focus on cardiovascular imaging. He is Co-Director of the Cardiac MR PET CT Program and Director of Integrative Bio-Imaging Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

In this segment, he discusses the link between stress and heart disease.

More on Dr. Tawakol

Col. Jeffrey Yarvis

Colonel Jeffrey Yarvis is a published social work and military scholar in the field of psychological trauma. He has conducted international research and partnerships in Canada, Iraq, Germany, Ukraine and Romania on issues related to PTSD and presented his work to over 100 national and international conferences.

In this video, he presents his experience and findings on PTSI, physical health, and nature.

More on COL Jeffrey Yarvis

Dr. Alan Lumsden (With Panel of Experts)

Alan Lumsden has developed an international reputation as a leader in the field of endovascular surgery. His work has resulted in numerous scientific articles, abstracts, books, book chapters and presentations. His research interests include developing newer methods of minimally invasive therapy.

Here, Dr. Lumsden moderates a panel on the experimental field studies connecting health and nature.

More on Dr. Lumsden

Lynn Scarlett (With Panel of Experts)

Lynn Scarlett is the global Managing Director for Public Policy at The Nature Conservancy. She currently chairs the Science Advisory Board of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and co-chairs the National Academy of Sciences Sustainability Roundtable.

In this panel, moderated by Tina Buford, Scarlett reviews key topics in health, nature, and public policy.

Tina Buford currently serves as the Vice President of Texan by Nature. She also is a director of the Sand County Foundation whose sole focus is supporting voluntary conservation on working lands through ethics, science and incentives.

More on Lynn Scarlett


Cynthia Pickett-Stevenson

Cynthia Pickett-Stevenson is director of the Center for Excellence in Education, established by the late Admiral Rickover and Joann DiGennaro, co-chair of the Methodist Hospital Foundation, Methodist DeBakey Heart Center Council, and senior cabinet member of the Houston Methodist President’s Leadership Council. She also serves on the Texan by Nature board of directors.

More on Cynthia Pickett-Stevenson

Reverend Charles Millikan

Reverend Charles Millikan takes great pride in being a United Methodist pastor who has the wonderful opportunity to serve in places that make significant difference for the church and our world.

Special Thanks to those who made this symposium possible.
Dr. Howard Frumkin, Dr. MaryCarol Hunter, Dr. Ahmed Tawakol, Col. Jeffrey Yarvis, Dr. Gregory Bratman, Lynn Scarlett, Dr. Alan Lumsden, Reverend Charles Millikan, Margaret Lamar, Texas Children in Nature, Texas Parks and Wildlife, EOG Resources, Grant Miller Photography, Image Resources Group.


Title Link
APHA Improving Health and Wellness through Access to Nature Download
Health Promotion International, Healthy Nature Healthy People Download
What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health Download
Frumkin et al., 2014, Nature & Health - Annu Rev Public Health Download
Frumkin & Louv, 2007, Conserving Land, Protecting Health - LTA Download
Frumkin, 2013, Evidence of Nature, Nature of Evidence - AJPM Download
Frumkin, 2001, Beyond Toxicity - AJPM Download
Bratman et al., 2015, The benefits of nature experience- Improved affect and cognition Download
Bratman et al., 2015 Nature experience reduces rumination and sgPFC activation PNAS Download
Bratman et al., 2012 Nature Experience, Cognitive Function, and Mental Health Download
Tawakol et al., 2017 Relation between resting amygdalar activity and cardiovascular events: a longitudinal and cohort study Download