The University of St. Thomas today announced Dr. MayKao Y. Hang has been appointed vice president and founding dean of its College of Health – officially launching the new college that reimagines how future professionals can solve systemic health care problems. Hang, who has served as president and CEO of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation since 2010, will begin her new role on a part-time basis Oct. 7 before transitioning to St. Thomas full time on Nov. 4.
Informed by Catholic social teaching, the college is currently comprised of the university’s existing School of Social Work and Graduate School of Professional Psychology. The university also is moving forward with plans to create a nursing school that will be housed within the college.
Hang joins a college with a vision to educate health care providers and leaders to skillfully, compassionately and collaboratively advance the physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being of individuals, families and communities. Building on St. Thomas’ longstanding tradition of educating behavioral health practitioners in social work and professional psychology, Hang’s leadership will help show students how to address the wellness of the whole person and improve health for underserved communities.
“In researching this college’s potential to address existing health care disparities, we see an acute demand for non-MD health care practitioners who have technical skills and cultural competencies,” said St. Thomas President Dr. Julie Sullivan. “Dr. Hang is the perfect fit to lead this college because she is a champion of addressing disparities, passionate about the well-being of underserved communities, and a values-based leader.”
At the Wilder Foundation, Hang designed integrative programs to address disparities in education, workforce, health and poverty. For instance, she developed programs to integrate behavioral health services, expand school-based mental-health services to African American and Southeast Asian children, and grow the number of licensed clinicians of color. Hang also helped reform and help improve health and community-based services for people with disabilities and chemical dependency, as well as vulnerable adults and the elderly, throughout nearly a decade in the public sector through the St. Paul Public Housing Agency and Ramsey County Human Services.
“St. Thomas strives to educate the whole person – body, mind and spirit,” said Dr. Richard Plumb, executive vice president and provost. “We want to carry that holistic, whole-person approach to the next generation of health care leaders, continuing the 150-year tradition of Catholic health care. Dr. Hang is a passionate pioneer in building collaborative efforts to address these types of needs, and we’re excited for her leadership to execute the college’s vision.”
The College of Health will prepare future health-related professionals to educate both urban and rural communities, spearhead new initiatives and conduct research to meet future needs. With this evolution, St. Thomas is poised to contribute to building an integrated health care system centered in whole-person care and focused on keeping people well mentally, physically, spiritually and socially. Hang will work with faculty and academic partners to develop new curricula, hire new faculty and cultivate health provider partners.
“St. Thomas has an opportunity to be holistic and interdisciplinary to educate our future workforce. We need practitioners who have the technical skills and cultural competence to meet the needs of our changing demographics,” Hang said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to help prepare the next generation of people who will lead us into the future.”
Hang earned her BA in psychology from Brown University, MA in public affairs from the University of Minnesota, and doctorate in public administration from Hamline University.
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