University of St. Thomas Magazine COVID-19 Special Edition



Q & A WITH COLLEGE OF HEALTH DEAN MAYKAO HANG COVID-19 has put the health care system in the spotlight. Dr. MayKao Hang, vice president and founding dean of the Morrison Family College of Health, has been following the pandemic closely as she brings her vision for the college to life. The college is focused on the wellness of the whole person (social, mental, physical and spiritual) and educating health care practitioners who possess technical skills and cultural competencies. It includes the Graduate School of Professional Psychology, the School of Social Work, Health and Exercise Science and will also house a new School of Nursing. Hang, who joined St. Thomas in November, said the pandemic has brought to light the weaknesses and strengths in our health delivery systems, proving it’s an opportune time to reevaluate how we think about health care in general. This story has been edited for length. You can see the entire article at WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO ADDRESS THE WHOLE PERSON? When [people] get sick, they usually go to a medical facility. But what promotes good health and keeps people healthy depends on the social supports people have spiritually, physically and mentally. Their social emotional health. We're seeing this now with how COVID-19 is impacting people. You can be physically fine but mentally distressed. It’s important to think about the conditions in which people are living, healing, learning and working. HOW DOES A PERSON'S PLACE IN SOCIETY AFFECT THE HEALTH CARE THEY RECEIVED ? What COVID-19 has highlighted is vulnerable populations, low-income populations, populations where there are health deserts – those communities where the delivery of testing isn't adequate, resource access isn't adequate. For example, the reality is there is still a racial and socioeconomic bias in who gets tested and who doesn't. You’re seeing health disparities with the elderly, African American populations, populations in the United States for whom it might not be safe to go get a test. HAS THIS PANDEMIC CHANGED OR ENHANCED ANY OF YOUR BELIEFS ON EDUCATING HEALTH PROVIDERS AND FUTURE LEADERS? The biggest insight during this time is how, as human beings, we resist change too much and how fast we can change. Look what COVID-19 did to that? Everybody has had to move to remote learning. When I first started at St. Thomas, the chair of the Graduate School of Psychology and I talked about if we could ever go to clinical supervision remotely. Well, guess what? We did it and it took less than a week. We can change faster than we think we can. That's a big lesson, which has given me a lot to think about in terms of what are the self-imposed barriers that we in academia have placed on the learning process? The Morrison Family College of Health is brand new, so we can design this with the future in mind because we're not living with any legacies, which is a wonderful place to be. That means being far more globally, ethically and technology oriented.

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