Father Dr. Myles N. Sheehan to Take-up Position as Provincial of New England
MAYWOOD, Ill. - Esteemed physician, man after God's own heart, beloved teacher and friendâcan such a man exist? For the last 14 years Loyola University Health System has found this and so much more in Dr. Myles Sheehan, S.J., senior associate dean, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and director of the Leischner Institute for Medical Education. With mixed emotions, Loyola says farewell to one of its most respected and deeply loved faculty members as Sheehan continues to follow God's leading and takes up his new position in July as the Provincial for the New England Province Society of Jesus.
"He not only teaches, but truly lives the commitment we as future physicians strive for, working toward the betterment of medicine and humanity through our care. He will be greatly missed," said Bridget O'Brien, Stritch medical student class of 2012.
Leaving his Loyola family where he has served as an educational administrator, teacher, physician, mentor, counselor and friend will be no easy task, but Sheehan knows this is the right step.
"God has never been subtle with me. As Provincial one of my main responsibilities will be taking care of the 300 Jesuits in New England and I have a real peace knowing I will be able to ensure these men are taken care of," said Sheehan. "This will also give me a voice to articulate in a confused world what the Church and Christ teaches, and spur on the Jesuit mission of education, ethics and social justice in response to what the Spirit wants."
Sheehan is a leader in geriatric medicine. He also has been the personal physician to Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, for nearly seven years. He is as a much sought-after speaker and presenter on topics such as care of the dying, values in medicine and a clinical/spiritual approach to aging. Though he will not be practicing medicine in his new post, end-of-life care will remain a passion for Sheehan.
"It is a privilege to work with people who are facing the end of their lives and make them more comfortable. End-of-life care is often done so poorly and we can cause unneeded suffering for people. This natural transition has become far worse because we as a medical field donât pay attention to it," Sheehan said.
With a zeal for the advancement of medicine, abounding care for his fellow man, unyielding devotion to God and uproarious sense of humor, Sheehan's lectures were a highlight for Stritch students. He got them thinking about ethics, what role does faith play in practicing medicine, social justice and what they can do to change the world.
"Myles has the remarkable ability to cut to the soul of a problem without dancing around it with fanciful euphemisms. Whether dealing with a patient, student, parishioner or friend, he is unashamedly direct without being coy or condescending. There is love in such honesty. He has caused many of us to examine ourselves more deeply to better understand our faith, our profession and the wonderful ways in which those can be linked," said Dr. William Cannon, chief of staff and vice president for professional affairs Loyola University Health System.
Sheehan has found that people are intrigued by his being both a priest and a physician. Though many are in awe he sees it as no big deal-just an ordinary response to God's leading for his life.
"One naturally flows from the other and through both I am able to see God all around me. The two roles challenge me to give my attention to the person in front of me while keeping in perspective the larger picture and issues like social justice," said Sheehan.
Though his list of academic, clinical and clerical accolades is long, it's the personal relationships that matter most to Sheehan.
"Being a priest and a physician has really come together for me while being here at Loyola. I've enjoyed my job, but what I'm going to miss most is being around my kids," said Sheehan.
"The Stritch students are his children. He watches over them and protects them like a mother hawk does her nest," said Mike Lambesis, assistant dean of student life. "He is fiercely protective of his faith, his school and his Stritch family. He will be missed, especially his sense of humor."
While at Stritch, Sheehan has conducted more than 100 weddings and has treasured photos from each one. He also says that a lot of baptisms have naturally followed these blessed events.
"He has an amazing way of making everyone feel important. His patients, his students-he takes a personal interest in everyone and is so encouraging," said Tim Crane, a second year medical student at Stritch. "It is humbling and amazing to watch him. He's found a good balance of being a priest and a physician and makes sense of it all. I've found reassurance from his example and the way he lives his life."
For the students and staff, one of the things they'll miss most is his laugh and sense of humor.
"I always looked forward to Dr. Sheehan's lectures. He is engaging, has a deep fund of knowledge, and best of all he's hilarious and entertaining. I often thought, 'I canât believe a priest said that!'" said Shannon Lovett, who recently graduated from Stritch. "But it's his compassion that has impacted me the most. On our recent medical mission trip to Vietnam, he demonstrated how compassion and empathy can have a powerful impact even in the most desperate of situations."
Sheehan is looking forward to returning to his hometown of Boston, but his Loyola family won't be far from his thoughts.
"I'm not the same person I was when I came here at 39-I didn't have any grey hairs then," he said with his mischievous smile. "Being here has opened me up to an array of people, cultures, thoughts and experiences while still being grateful for and grounded in my own faith."
And the legacy he hopes to leave already resounds in the hearts of those who know him.
"I hope people know that I genuinely cared for them. For the students, for my patients, for the people I worked with," said Sheehan.