St. Vladimir’s Seminary Associate Dean for Students awarded Doctorate, Visiting Professor of Palliative Care appointed

Priest David Mezynski, currently Associate Dean for Student Affairs at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, became “Father-Doctor David” when he earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Fordham University March 9, 2012. Fr. David defended his thesis, titled “The Effects of the Origenist Controversy on the Pastoral Theology of Barsanuphius and John,” before a panel of his readers and advisers, which included Archpriest John Behr, Dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, and professors from the Faculty of Theology at Fordham University: his mentor, Dr. George Demacopoulos, and Dr. Michael Peppard, Dr. Maureen A. Tilly, and Dr. Joseph T. Lienhard, SJ.

Encouraging friends, such as Priest Nilus Lerro, the Director of Student Affairs at St. Tikhon’s Seminary, as well as several seminarians from St. Vladimir’s attended Fr. David’s doctoral defense and were on hand to be the first to offer congratulations. From 2004 to 2005 Fr. David served as Assistant to the Dean, and from 2005 to 2009 as Director of Student Affairs, at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, South Canaan, Pennsylvania, before joining the staff at St. Vladimir’s.

“I’m still floating six feet off the ground, and all I can think about is that I’m finally done,” said Fr. David. “It took me a total of eight years, which seems like a long time, but basically I was working on this part-time while working at St. Tikhon’s, and then at St. Vladimir’s. I especially want to thank His Grace Michael (former Dean of St. Tikhon’s Seminary and now bishop of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey) for encouraging and supporting me as I pursued my doctoral studies, as well as Dr. George Demacopoulos, for his patience and guidance, and Fr. Nilus Lerro, for his never-wavering belief that I would actually finish.”

Dean Fr. John Behr noted Fr. David’s accomplishment, saying, “It has been a joy to work with “Father-Doctor” David on his dissertation over the last years, and especially to see him shine today as he faced his examiners. He has learnt a lot from working so closely through the letters of Sts. Barsanuphius and John, as I have from him, and I am sure that it will stand him in good stead in his future ministry.”

Likewise, Chancellor/CEO Archpriest Chad Hatfield offered his congratulations, remarking to Fr. David, “You joined our team with ‘part of the deal’ being that you complete your doctoral studies. That day has arrived and you honor all of us at SVOTS!”

In related news, Dr. Daniel Hinshaw has been appointed Visiting Professor of Palliative Care at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. Dr. Hinshaw is Professor of Surgery at the University of Michigan Medical School, in the Section of General Surgery. He serves as an attending consultant physician on the inpatient palliative care consultation service at the VA Ann Arbor Health Care System and provides outpatient palliative care services at the University of Michigan Geriatrics Center. He completed a fellowship in Palliative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in June 2001, during a sabbatical. His clinical research interests are focused on care at the end of life, spiritual distress in advanced illnesses, and the use of complementary medicine in the relief of pain.

“Our seminary faculty is very impressed by all of Dr. Hinshaw’s work, nationally and internationally,” said seminary Dean, Archpriest John Behr, who made the faculty appointment. “And, we are deeply honored by the fact that he now can represent St. Vladimir’s Seminary in these endeavors.”

Speaking about his new association with the seminary, Dr. Hinshaw said, “I am deeply honored by this appointment. It provides a wonderful opportunity to align my clinical, teaching, and scholarly work more closely with the healing mission of the Orthodox Church.

“A major challenge that modern health care poses to patients, especially those with a strong religious faith, is the compartmentalization of different perspectives and skills,” he continued.

“This lack of effective interdisciplinary communication among those caring for the sick fragments most efforts at providing holistic care and exacerbates the suffering of those facing serious life-threatening illnesses. This is particularly problematic with regard to the integration of religious faith with the clinical care of the sick.

“The highly secularized nature of Western society has effectively divorced health care from the healing ministry of the Church,” he concluded. “I hope that my appointment to St. Vladimir’s faculty will make it possible to create bridges between the profound Orthodox theological understanding of the human person in illness and health and the practical application of this understanding within pastoral and diaconal ministries of the Church that will transcend the many artificial boundaries created by secularization.”