Lynn G Underwood PhD

I have published widely in areas such as quality of life, cancer, stress, compassionate love, and the understanding of ordinary spiritual experience in a multicultural context. Originally trained in medicine, I hold a PhD in epidemiology, and I was elected to membership of the Academy of Behavioral Medicine and was a member of the Advisory Board of the National Center for Rehabilitation Research of the NIH. I was awarded a Kluge Fellowship at the Library of Congress, and was a part of an interdisciplinary project on the nature of the human person, in Greece. I directed grant-making and foundation programs for 13 years, and developed projects with the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health. I lecture and facilitate workshops, and advise people throughout the world who use the Daily Spiritual Experience Scale. I have consulted on projects for Harvard University, the Cleveland Clinic, the University of Connecticut and a variety of social service organizations, and am a Senior Research Associate at the Inamori International Center for Ethics at Case Western Reserve University.

I also work with organizations who are interested in the spiritual dimension of their work, and facilitate workshops on things like compassionate love, spiritual connection, and communication. My writing at present is focused on how our fundamental selves flourish and develop in the midst of difficult circumstances such as disability, chronic disease, and other hard times, and the role the arts can play in that. I do presentations on that too.

Some personal stuff:

I was born in Los Angeles, and grew up in many places including Germany and Dubuque, Iowa. I have lived in Ireland, England, and Switzerland, including 10 years in Belfast during the Troubles. I now live in the woods near the Great Lakes. I have three daughters and a husband who is a retired college professor and writes crime fiction.

Art is my passion, but my practical bent took me to the sciences for medical school and my PhD. My Instagram account is:   I kept up my study of art over the years and continue to do art, which for me is a spiritual practice too. My science research was driven by a desire to include the whole messy person in medical and social scientific studies. But also I have had a philosophical interest in epistemology, how do we know what we know, and how does what we know map onto reality. So measurement and study design grabbed me. My research has also led me into areas of ethics, especially that of other-regarding love. I have enjoyed teaching over the years, and more recently have taught courses such as Neuroethics (how does what we know about the brain influence how we see ethical decision-making, and how do we make ethical decisions around the new neural technologies, chemical and electronic, that are available), and one called: Perspectives: Art, Science, and Spirituality.

Spirituality has been central in my life. I studied for 20 years with the novice master of a Benedictine Abbey, who put me through the course of studies of the novices, with readings, training, and self-examination. I also have attended many workshops over the years with people like Gerald May, Martin Smith and Thomas Keating. I have led small groups and helped individuals who were exploring how to integrate spirituality into their lives using Ignatian Spirituality and creative approaches to prayer such as Lectio Divina, the ancient method of learning to deeply listen to spiritual writing, music, poetry and art. I have gone on a yearly week-long silent retreat for over 25 years. I currently am the facilitator for an online community of Episcopalian artists who are interested in the contemplative dimension of their work.

In my science work and personal life, I have been inspired by and learned from many religious traditions and ethical approaches. In my work, such as the development of the 16 questions in the Daily Spiritual Experience Scale (DSES), I have stretched my research and writing beyond a Judeo-Christian perspective, and the DSES works for Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, various Chinese religions, other religions and those not comfortable with religion. I have initiated and been involved in projects with the World Health Organization, and through that, and other projects, have come to know and develop friendships with people from many religious traditions and secular approaches, and that has enriched my ability to understand and communicate and learn beyond my particular approach. I have written a bunch of academic articles and books, and also Spiritual Connection in Daily Life, which is designed for an audience of practical people and individuals seeking tools to help grow spiritually and communicate with others at a deeper level.

Some of my art can be found on the blog on this site, on a page on this site, and also on Instagram: lynn.under.wood

More professional detail for those interested

Publications (click for list on another page)  I have co-edited books with Oxford University Press and Wiley- Blackwell on topics such as stress and social support and a book on the role of relationships in mental illness. My articles include work on the doctor-patient relationship, a qualitative study of compassionate love in Christian monks, publications on the methodology of self-report in the social sciences, quality of life, and an article on the complex nature of time in clinical medicine. I have a number of publications on the 16-item scale I developed of ordinary spiritual experiences (see ). That work led me to write a trade press book, Spiritual Connection in Daily Life, based on the DSES which was designed for individuals seeking tools to help them grow spiritually, develop resilience, and communicate with others at a deeper level.

My Daily Spiritual Experience Scale (DSES), has been translated into 40 languages and has been used in over 400 published studies to date, with hundreds of studies ongoing internationally. It measures things such as awe, a sense of gratitude, feeling other-centered love, a sense of connection with the transcendent, and accepting others. It works for those from many religions as well as those not comfortable with religion. I do consulting for organizations who are interested in the spiritual dimension of their work. I and give workshops on to use the 16 DSES questions to explore one’s own spiritual life and communicate about it with others different from ourselves, help with resiliency, and prevent burnout.

As a member of the European Research Network on the Human Person, I contributed my work on the Human Person in Dire Circumstances, addressing neurological, psychological and spiritual issues in that context. I was member of a working group on the Stigma of Mental Illness for the National Institute of Mental Health, and one on Behavioral Factors and Health with the National Science Foundation, and a member of the Templeton Advisory Board for many years. While serving as Vice President of an endowed operating foundation, I initiated and developed a research program to support and conduct research on the psychosocial aspects of health, and areas such as stress, social support, pain and suffering, and compassionate love. I was especially interested in bringing together researchers and others despite disciplinary divisions. I actively review papers for many journals internationally.

Past academic positions have included: Professor of Biomedical Humanities at Hiram College, Director of the Center for Literature and Medicine, and teaching appointments in the Department of Epidemiology at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, the Honors College at Western Michigan University, John Carroll University and Queen’s University in the UK.

My cancer research in the 1980’s identified why the skin cancer, malignant melanoma, was so deadly in Northern Ireland, looking at the histopathology of all cases over 5 years and interviewing all the new cases. Then I designed and implemented an intervention of physician education that significantly improved survival when followed up over 10 years.