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Recap: Health Equity and Social Justice Summit


Revisit the Center for Leadership Forum, Featuring Bishop Edmund James Whalen and Miss Universe 2021 Harnaaz Sandhu

Miss Universe 2021 Harnaaz Sandhu poses in front of a blue and gold backdrop with a group of Mount Saint Vincent students to take a selfie

For years, the College has featured renowned leaders from a wide variety of businesses and industries, covering topics anchored in leadership and, of course, our mission. We’ve welcomed attendees from the greater New York area, as well as students, alumnae/i, trustees, and members of the faculty and administration, for various executive leadership programmatic initiatives, including noteworthy keynotes, workshops, panels, and speaker series.

This year has been no different.

On October 27, we hosted Leadership for the Common Good: Health Equity and Social Justice, a forum that welcomed distinguished speakers and expert panelists, including Bishop Edmund James Whalen and Miss Universe 2021 Harnaaz Kaur Sandhu.

The event began with a riveting opening presentation, The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in Today’s World: Leading with Faith and Reason*, by Bishop Whalen. He shared pivotal moments from his youth, asked participants how people and places have changed them, shared how we can further understand the meaning of social justice through the right relationship with God, and he even asked the morning’s most important question: Will Aaron Judge get resigned with the Yankees? His kindness, humor, and humility positioned the day as one filled with hope, faith, and reason—and allowed those in attendance to think critically about leadership within themselves and in others.

“Who are the people—who is someone in your life—who for you, is a leader?” he asked. “Who is someone who opened your eyes to the world, and because they opened your eyes to the world, they opened your eyes to yourself…to the possibility of actually making a difference—even when you didn’t think you could. Who is somebody who picked you up when you fell down, dusted you off, said you were still good, and walked with you to make you try it again? And so, think, talk, walk, about that person, for whom you can make a difference—because then for you, that person is a leader.”

The event continued with a most informative keynote presentation by Miss Universe and Global Menstrual Equity Accelerator Spokesperson Harnaaz Sandhu. After an introduction by John Prufeta—who is the founder, CEO, and general partner of Medical Excellence Capital, and who also served as the panel’s moderator—Harnaaz took the stage with Michael P. Hoffman to headline a discussion on global health initiatives that included insights into period poverty, the importance of period equity, and menstrual hygiene among women.

“I have always looked up to being a Miss Universe because you get a platform to speak about something you truly care about,” she said. In her case, Harnaaz has used her reign to champion menstrual equity, and she has even launched a coalition with the goal of reducing stigma around periods, while promoting widespread access to sanitary products. Now, she continues to travel across the world to promote women’s empowerment.

During her remarks, Harnaaz also reflected on leadership in her own life, encouraging others to believe in themselves, enact meaningful change, and inspire leadership around them.

“If you believe, if you have that faith, and if you know those qualities, then that is what identifies the purpose of what you want to do,” she said. “You can conquer anything and any dream in your life if you believe—and I have always told myself that I believe in myself. Now, when I see that one girl coming up to me and sharing her story, and she tells me that I’ve broken the mold, the stigma, and now I am free—I am free to be the leader of my health and I am free to achieve the goals I am really aiming for—that just gives you confidence, the self-confidence and self-esteem, that makes you, you. You want to work for your own brand—that is your name, your mission…to be you.”

Following the keynote (and many photos and selfies with Miss Universe!), the Center for Leadership welcomed Dan Reingold, President and CEO of RiverSpring Health, and Pat Tursi, CEO of Elizabeth Seton Children’s, for a healthcare panel; Matthew Archibald, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Director of the Fishlinger Center, for a presentation alongside other Mount faculty experts, including Alanna Kavanaugh and Catherine Sharbaugh, on health equity in education and academic research; and Pamela J. Newman, Ph.D., Founder, President, and CEO of PJN Strategies LLC, and former trustee Michael P. Hoffman, Chairman Emeritus and Founder of Changing Our World, Inc., for a presentation culminating the day’s theme on leading for the common good through equity and the Golden Rule.

Michael Hoffman and Pamela Newman pose together while sitting at a table during the Center for Leadership inaugural summit

The summit also officially launched the 2022-2023 season of programs and opportunities offered by one of the College’s newest initiatives, the Center for Leadership.

With a necessary focus on health equity, the Summit highlighted some the Mount’s newest additions to its robust array of programs in the health professions. Such offerings (including the new PA program—the only program of its kind registered in the Bronx), along with health-related programs in other disciplines—including nursing (with undergraduate, graduate, and accelerated tracks), family nurse practitioner, and healthcare management—widen the opportunities for students wanting careers that address the complex and pervasive mosaic which is healthcare today.

“Future leaders in the healthcare sector must bring sharpened skills to their careers in the traditional areas of business practice,” said Lynne Bongiovanni, Ph.D., Provost and Dean of the College. “The health sciences—including medically robust offerings in nursing, family nurse practitioner, physician assistant studies, and even an online MBA in healthcare management—constitute a major strength at Mount Saint Vincent. We have witnessed tremendous growth in our rigorous, highly competitive programs, resulting in a track record of turning out exceptional healthcare professionals. We knew it was time to bring together the leaders of today with our community to highlight the issues that impact health equity.”

Carrying out the mission of the Center for Leadership is a multi-disciplinary undertaking supported by members who represent every aspect of the College—and the Summit is a direct result of their efforts. Among these partners exists a remarkably influential Advisory Council, co-chaired by: President Susan R. Burns, Ph.D., Pamela J. Newman, John Prufeta, and Michael P. Hoffman.

Created to provide intentional leadership opportunities which will strengthen in our students an understanding of how to manifest the best of themselves as engaged members of our community, the Center is multi-faceted.

“The Center for Leadership’s mission is to provide opportunities for students to recognize their own potential and to use that discovery to create more meaningful and impactful engagement at the College—and beyond,” said Gabrielle Occhiogrosso, Ed.D., Dean of the Undergraduate College. “The ability for our students to hone in on leadership skills, coupled with the support from our Oxley Integrated Advising Program, begins on day one and carries through to graduation. We’re looking forward to further expanding our programming and mentorship experiences at the Mount, bringing our community together with exemplary industry leaders through the new Center.”

On All College Day, as campus prepared for the Fall 2022 semester, Dr. Burns announced a strategic plan that will expand the reach and outline the objectives of the Center for Leadership going forward—something the College is especially excited to do, beginning with what was a most informative and innovative Summit.

President Susan R. Burns, Ph.D. takes a selfie with two alums from the University of Mount Saint Vincent

About the University of Mount Saint Vincent
Founded in 1847 by the Sisters of Charity, the University of Mount Saint Vincent offers nationally recognized liberal arts education and a select array of professional fields of study on a landmark campus overlooking the Hudson River. Committed to the education of the whole person, and enriched by the unparalleled cultural, educational and career opportunities of New York City, the College equips students with the knowledge, skills and experiences necessary for lives of achievement, professional accomplishment and leadership in the 21st century.

*First in a series of discussions on the “Role of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition in Today’s Society.” Included in the Center for Leadership’s annual summit by Joan Moran, a Mount Saint Vincent alumna and former Board of Trustees Chairperson, in memory of her father, Deacon John R. Maloney, in recognition of his lifelong service to God and to others.