Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development
Society for Spirituality, Theology and Health
Duke University School of Medicine

About Us

A teaching member of the U.S.-based Global Palliative Care Quality Alliance  and the U.K.-based Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance , we are "intercontinental". A non-restrictive research agenda, we are "open". A double-blind peer-reviewed service framework  acknowledged  by top-ranked  Duke University School of Medicine , we are a "university". We devote ourselves exclusively to spirituality and health , placing emphasis on authorizations in, and recognition of exceptional achievement in, palliative communication , a specialized form of therapeutic intervention that exemplifies the World Health Organization's definition of palliative care . We cordially invite you , having faced, facing, or soon to be facing palliative challenges of your own, to the most exceptionally rewarding opportunity available for personal development and professional growth in the spirit of Duke Health , and ask, in support of our work, that you consider making a donation  to help defray tuition costs of those for whom now is the time to respond to this calling.


Intercontinental Open University, a double-blind peer-reviewed teaching-focused, research-guided service framework, operates exclusively in the person of its volunteer-supported President and Chief Executive Officer, awarded inaugural membership in 2008 to the Society for Spirituality, Theology and Health , established in 2007  by the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health , based in the Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development , at the Duke University School of Medicine, accredited regionally by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) , and professionally by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) .

Historical Roots

Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, portrays Pontius Pilate, Roman military governor, or procurator, of the imperial province of Judea from 26 to 36, as a harsh administrator who fails to understand the religious convictions and national pride of the Jews. Though he had complete judicial authority over all non-Roman citizens, many cases, particularly those relating to religious matters, were decided by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme council and tribunal. Gospel accounts relate that after the Sanhedrin, lacking authority to impose the death penalty, finds Jesus guilty of blasphemy, it commits Him to the Roman court. Pilate refuses to approve the judgment without an investigation. The Jewish priests further accuse Jesus, and Pilate questions Him privately. Impressed with the dignity and frankness of Jesus' answers, Pilate tries to save Him but succumbs to two blind spots: Failure to understand his constituency, and fear of an uprising within it. He accedes to the demands of the populace, and Jesus is executed.

Clinical Perspective

Pilate Syndrome™, a communication-dependent, anxiety-related mental disorder, consistent in definition with that of the federally mandated disability determination process as noted by the National Academy of Sciences (2015, p. 122  ), is marked by two blind spots: failure and fear. For the caregiver, "failure to understand" a patient, and "fear of an uprising" in that patient, undermine that caregiver's therapeutic intervention at the risk of disabling palliative communication , thus causing it to become dysfunctional, as opposed to enabling it , thus empowering it to become functional. With Constantopoulos (1999, p. vi, vii, 2, 22 and 99  [cf. Gardner  ] ) having laid the initial groundwork, nearly two decades ago, for the assessment of such a risk, and with Bachner and Carmel (2009, p. 530  ) having drawn attention, a decade later, to that same risk, Pilate Syndrome™ is, at long last, style-identifiable and, accordingly, risk-assessable using the paired comparison equivalent of a global positioning system, created and developed by the former, the university's President and Chief Executive Officer, presented following double-blind peer review in 2008 at the 1st Annual Meeting of the Society for Spirituality, Theology and Health at the Duke University School of Medicine, alpha-tested in primary care facilities for five years, and beta-tested in a wide variety of diverse pastoral settings for ten years.

Prediagnostic Contexts

Diagnostic Approach

Predisposed to underlying conditions outlined by the Duke Health Profile , and externalized as a communicator style (cf. Norton and Pettegrew, 1977  ), Pilate Syndrome™ is diagnosed using the Style Designation Index™, allowing for instinctive end-user reactions to forced-choice, biaxial, dependent variable alternatives of varied light intensity, examined by Constantopoulos and Bloch (1967  ), each option signifying a fractional inclination for conveying palliative relationality, overviewed by O'Connor, Davis and Abernethy (2010  ), to an immanent exigent situation, examined by Bitzer (1968, p. 6  ), he having dovetailed it off of Aristotle (350 BCE  , Part 2, Sentence 1), thereby reconfirming systemic interdependence of vision and hearing to be the key to preparation and readness, observed by Duke University neuroscientists . If, after risk assessment using the Risk Vulnerability Scale™, allowing for instinctive end-user reactions to forced-choice, independent variable alternatives, that style, given a high factor to relationship ratio, is anticipated to result in disabled palliative communication, then the disorder can be reordered in the appropriate manner . Thus, with a structure and a metabolism that are, so Palade (1963, p. 614  ) emphasizes, two aspects of the same set of phenomenon, Pilate Syndrome™ proves to be not as much a "response" to them as it is a reaction to them, one that can be relieved and reversed.


The university offers endorsement, certification, and licensing in palliative communication, involving three, six or twelve months, respectively, of monitored interaction with patients or residents at an approved medical facility or in a home environment. Each authorization is assessment-based, given, respectively, a a 120-question, 30-minute multiple-choice test, a 2-hour, single-question, comprehensive written examination, or a 90-minute, peer-reviewed, face-to-face capstone encounter.

The university's flagship program is the higher doctorate – the Doctor of Humane Arts (D.H.A.), the Doctor of Letters (Litt.D.), or the Doctor of Science (Sc.D.) – in palliative communication, conferred throughout the calendar year upon petitioners who successfully complete the Open Access Defense™, or who successfully have completed its university-determined equivalent, for creative, scholarly, or scientific output, respectively, that evidences spirituality's positive impact on health, with the structure of the protocol comprised of an introduction of the peer critics (5 minutes) and the candidate (5 minutes); the candidate's keynote address (15 minutes) and demonstration project (30 minutes); a question and answer session (15 minutes); a break (10 minutes); three peer critiques at ten minutes each (30 minutes); the candidate's response (10 minutes); three peer replies at five minutes each (15 minutes); the candidate's rejoinder (5 minutes); an audience poll (10 minutes); the poll results (5 minutes); the conferral or non-conferral of the degree (10 minutes); and the closing (5 minutes).

It is hereby noted that the Doctor of Science (Sc.D.) is not, nor should it be considered, a medical degree.

For all programs, tuition, covering travel, lodging, and meal costs, is negotiable, mutually acceptable per contract, non-refundable, and payable thirty days prior to the scheduled Open Access Defense™, capstone encounter, examination or test.

Leadership & Alumni News

Aimed at selecting distinguished individuals from the widest possible range of human endeavor to serve as testers, examiners, or assessment panelists for authorizations, or as peer critics for the Open Access Defense™, the university chooses the most appropriate, most accessible, and most available professionals, from among a loosely knit group of expert specialists, scattered throughout the world, who earnestly are willing to exercise their knowledge by providing insightful feedback to the benefit of the candidate. Chosen invitees, each a thought leader within a specific area of interest, are honorary members of the faculty, and are not paid by the university, whose executive oversight currently is led by the Very Reverend Protopresbyter Constantine A. Constantopoulos, Ph.D.  , Distinguished Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, Clinical Professor of Palliative Communication, and President and Chief Executive Officer of the university. From 2011 to 2018, founding director, George C. Constantopoulos (1923-2018), Ph.D., of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (Retired), and lead author  for 1964 Nobel Laureate, Konrad E. Bloch, served as President (honoris causa), with Nickas C. Constant (1926-2007), A.D., having served as Director Emeritus of Grants and Scholarships .

Congratulations to Linda Elaine Vogt Turner from Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada), awarded the Doctor of Humane Arts degree on June 27, 2017, and Michael Frangogiannis from Galatas, Peloponnese (Greece), awarded the Doctor of Science degree on October 1, 2017.


Congratulations to Linda Elaine Vogt Turner from Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada), awarded the Doctor of Humane Arts degree on June 27, 2017, and Michael Frangogiannis from Galatas, Peloponnese (Greece), awarded the Doctor of Science degree on October 1, 2017.