top of page

Our Founders

John Wadude Laird, M.D.

Dr. Laird has practiced integrative patient care in a variety of outpatient settings for forty years. As an early member of the holistic medicine movement, Dr. Laird noted with concern that "body-mind-spirit" medicine generally lacked deeper understandings of spiritual transformation.
In early 1980's, he organized several major conferences exploring scientific and spiritual perspectives on healing. He founded the Great Smokies Medical Center and co-founded the Great Smokies Diagnostic Lab in North Carolina to expand innovative and comprehensive patient care options.

Although schooled in several spiritual traditions, Dr. Laird's personal spiritual practice for over thirty years has been classical Sufism. Spiritual healing in this tradition is based on deep and subtle understandings of the human heart.

As a co-founder and past president of the University of Spiritual Healing & Sufism, Dr. Laird played a leading role in shaping academic and clinical instruction on the application of these classical perspectives.

He has provided personal healing sessions to hundreds of people with a wide variety of physical, emotional and spiritual concerns. Having taught these approaches to several thousand people in the past twenty years, Dr. Laird is widely recognized as a sincere, engaging, fun and uniquely effective teacher.

Dr. Laird currently serves as the Institute’s President and Executive Director.

Nura Laird, M.Ed.

Nura Laird, MEd, is a Dean, faculty member, and chair of the Department of Spiritual Peacemaking at the University of Spiritual Healing and Sufism. Nura has been a student of spiritual healing and Sufism since 1977.


She has a private practice in Shafiyy healing in Northern California. Further, Nura has extensive training and experience in community and family mediation, and in teaching and counseling children and adults. Since the early 1990’s Nura has worked professionally as a spiritual counselor, teacher, mediator and seminar leader internationally.


She is especially inspired when healing, love and peace grow within families, and hopes that her clients and students are able to bring more peace to our world.

Cheryl Ritenbaugh, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Cheryl Ritenbaugh, Ph.D. M.P.H., Professor Emerita of Family & Community Medicine, Anthropology, Nutritional Sciences, and Integrative Medicine, University of Arizona, received her training in medical anthropology and nutritional sciences, and spent most of her career involved in biomedical research.  The preponderance of her research focused on nutrition and disease prevention, especially cancer and diabetes. 


Over the last 15 years she has been a leader in clinical research on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), winning more than $5 million in research grants, and serving as President of the International Society for Complementary Medicine Research from 2009-2011. 


In retirement, she continues to be active in developing measures of CAM expectations and outcomes, and in the evaluation of the impacts of CAM therapies in everyday settings.

Peter Sa’id Chamberin, J.D.

Peter Sa’id Chamberin, J.D. graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1967. He received his JD degree in 1972 from the University of California-Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law.  


Peter enjoyed a long and successful career as a tax attorney, specializing in tax, business and estate planning. 


He is an experienced student of Sufism and a 2007 graduate of the University of Spiritual Healing and Sufism. Peter has given sincere and dedicated service for years for multiple non-profit organizations.

Susan Rahima Schmall, Ph.D., R.N.

Rahima Susan Schmall, Ph.D., R.N. is a licensed psychologist, registered nurse and spiritual healer in the Sufi tradition.  For over thirty she has successfully blended psychology, spirituality and medical knowledge to bring loving and compassionate care to individuals, couples and groups.  She specializes in working with individuals and families experiencing chronic and life threatening illness.


In addition to her private practice, Rahima is a faculty member and department chair of the Spiritual Healing and Counseling Master’s Program of the University of Spiritual Healing and Sufism.  She is the director of the Healing Intensive Retreat Program at the Shadhiliyya Sufi Center in Pope Valley, Ca.   For nine years prior to these appointments, she was the department chair of an MA in counseling program training new psychotherapists.  She has taught continuing education courses in spirituality and healing to health professionals around the country.


Rahima has prior experience as a family therapist in an alcohol and drug treatment program where she developed a program for children whose parents were afflicted by alcoholism or drug addiction.  She has been a supervisor of student counseling center and a consultant to a locked psychiatric unit.


Aside from her training as a psychologist, Rahima is a teacher in the Sufi tradition, the Buddhist tradition, and a long term yoga student.  She is skilled in blending a variety of meditative and mind-body techniques into her healing work to help people through pain, illness and emotional distress. 


In 1986, she was diagnosed with a severe autoimmune disease which started her on her own deep and profound healing journey.  Her personal experience of healing, combined with her extensive knowledge and clinical experience, allows her to provide safe and loving container in which to support her clients’ journey toward health and wholeness.

Other Founders

Maxine Salima Adelstein, M.Ed., D.D. 


Amina Stader-Chan




bottom of page