MayKao Hange speaking at a podium.
Dean of the Morrison Family College of Health Dr. MayKao Hang speaks during a special ceremony honoring the Morrison family. (Liam James Doyle/University of St. Thomas)

St. Thomas to Host Inaugural Whole Person Health Summit

Under the theme “From Awareness to Action,” the Morrison Family College of Health will host its inaugural Whole Person Health Summit on April 19 in the Anderson Student Center at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. The goal is to bring together practitioners and advocates who are dedicated to advancing health equity based on where and how people live their lives.

“This is the beginning of a larger movement to shift the paradigm of health to focus on service providers, community leaders, and those striving for a greater focus on whole person health and health equity,” said Dr. MayKao Y. Hang, founding dean of the Morrison Family College of Health and organizer of the summit.

In describing the concept of whole person health and its importance, Hang said, “Much of the health delivery system ignores personal relationships within a family context and focuses too much on individuals who are sick; we need to reimagine a system designed around families and community-engaged solutions.”

Well-respected community leaders who are working hard to address the social, environmental, economic and political conditions that affect health will lead presentations and collaborative discussions as a step toward finding those solutions.

The summit’s keynote speaker is Jan Malcolm, who spent two terms as the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health, including leading the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under her leadership, the department made significant strides in areas such as health equity, mental health and emergency preparedness.

“This Whole Person Health Summit offers an opportunity to hear from people taking concrete steps to implement whole person care, as well as a chance for all participants to help us develop tangible solutions together that we can act on today,” Hang said.

Speakers from a wide variety of backgrounds and professions will take part in the conference. Hospital systems, mental health providers, cultural institutions, insurance providers, nonprofits and religiously-affiliated groups will all be represented throughout the day. Dr. Rob Vischer, president of the University of St. Thomas, will also offer opening remarks. Sessions will examine systems change as well as individual and organizational actions we can take to improve whole person care.

One such speaker is Atum Azzahir, executive director of the Cultural Wellness Center. Azzahir has done extensive work supporting African people living in the U.S., such as developing community models for workforce redevelopment, entrepreneurship, and meditation practices. With the Cultural Wellness Center, she also partnered with Allina Health to develop The Backyard Initiative, which provides social support, health education and empowerment tools to improve access to health resources and increase positive health outcomes.

Other speakers include:

  • Ihotu Ali: Founder and Director, Oshun Center for Intercultural Healing
  • Atum Azzahir: Executive Director, Cultural Wellness Center
  • Dr. Nathan Chomilo: Medicaid Medical Director, Minnesota Department of Human Services
  • Dr. Jessica Gourneau: Clinical Director, American Indian Family Center
  • Imam Sharif Mohamed: Co-Founder, Dar-Al Hijrah Mosque; Co-Founder, Open Path Resources
  • Vayong Moua: Director of Racial and Health Equity Policy, Center for Prevention, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
  • Charlie Noel: Senior Change Consultant, Ibility
  • Jinny Palen: Executive Director, Minnesota Association of Community Mental Health
  • Dr. Arti Prasad: Chief Strategic Development Officer, Hennepin Healthcare
  • Stella Whitney-West: CEO, NorthPoint Health and Wellness
  • Dr. Pahoua Yang: Vice President, Community Health and Wellness, Amherst H. Wilder Foundation

    “For people working in the health care field, it’s crucial to listen and respond to the concerns and priorities of patients and address the many factors that contribute to a person’s overall well-being,” said Hang, who encourages professionals and students across health disciplines to attend this inaugural summit.