Penny and Bill George.
Penny and Bill George

New Grant Sharpens Focus on Whole-Person Health at St. Thomas

One of Minnesota’s leading foundations focused on integrative care and healing is helping the University of St. Thomas expand opportunities for students, researchers and professionals to transform their communities through whole-person care.

The George Family Foundation has awarded a $500,000 grant to the university’s Morrison Family College of Health. The foundation’s largest ever gift to St. Thomas includes a plan to offer underserved Twin Cities populations access to nursing and exercise science services as part of a widely used pro bono program that already offers counseling and legal services. The grant also will allow St. Thomas to develop more educational and research programs focused on whole-person care at the College of Health.

When St. Thomas launched the Morrison Family College of Health in 2019, its stated mission was to produce health care professionals who could provide whole-person care that keeps people well physically, mentally, spiritually and socially. That vision caught the attention of Penny and Bill George (former Medtronic CEO), who as co-chairs and founders of the George Family Foundation are passionate about investing in people, programs and initiatives that foster wholeness in mind, body, spirit and community.

“The transformative vision of the Morrison Family College of Health and the mission of our foundation are perfectly aligned,” said Penny and Bill George. “We are pleased to support MayKao and her colleagues in finding innovative ways to address community health needs while pointing the way toward solutions in health care more broadly.”

The new grant will establish the George Family Whole-Person Health Initiative at St. Thomas, which is creating a national model for whole-person, integrative health programming. Dr. MayKao Y. Hang, founding dean of the Morrison Family College of Health, said these initiatives are required to avoid fragmentation in health care and other support systems that currently do not support whole-person, community-engaged approaches.

“We need to equip students with the knowledge and skills to do things differently as a sustainable change that can advance healthier outcomes for everyone,” Hang said. “When it comes to addressing the needs of individuals, families and communities, we need to understand that physical, mental, social and spiritual factors are inseparable.”

Through the George Family Whole-Person Health Initiative, St. Thomas will:

  • Launch the George Family Innovation Fund to support research and community-engaged projects centered around systems change through whole-person care
  • Expand its Interprofessional Center for Counseling and Legal Services (IPC), which currently serves more than 200 clients from underserved Twin Cities communities a year; through social work, graduate psychology and law students, the IPC currently provides counseling and legal services and will begin to engage its health and exercise science students, as well as students from the new Susan S. Morrison School of Nursing
  • Offer integrative health training courses for students and professionals through St. Thomas’ Continuing and Professional Education (CAPE) program, with the first course to be available in 2023
  • Host a signature annual convening for community partners, thought leaders, scholars and practitioners to fast-track ideas that shift the paradigm to whole-person care

“The George Family Whole-Person Health Initiative will accelerate our vision of changing how we educate our next generation of leaders,” Hang said. “Through this partnership, we will also design new pathways for interprofessional teaching and practice in our community to help reduce health disparities.”

The initiative is scheduled to officially launch in early 2023. To hear more from Bill George, you can join the University of St. Thomas’ First Friday event on Oct. 7, during which Hang will sit down with George for a discussion about his new book, True North: Emerging Leader Edition.