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Dr. Claire Watson has been named the executive director of St. Bonaventure University’s new Health Professions initiative. Dr. Monica Thomas has been named the associate director.
The university’s vision is to develop a School of Health Professions over the next few years, said Dr. Joseph Zimmer, provost and vice president for academic affairs.
Watson has been chair of the university’s physical education and sport studies programs since 2013, and a full-time faculty member at SBU since 2009. Thomas has been director of the Franciscan Health Care Professions program at St. Bonaventure since 2013.
Building upon its robust undergraduate science curriculum and pre-health programs, St. Bonaventure last year began to explore the possibility of offering clinical graduate degrees in several fields. After review, the university’s Board of Trustees approved the funding to hire Watson and Thomas, who will work with the faculty to build the programs.
“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare is one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S.,” said Zimmer. “It just makes sense for us to build upon the strong foundation of our science programs and explore these options at both the undergraduate and graduate level.”
An “essential and important first step” in building the initiative’s foundation is creating a feeder program at the undergraduate level, Zimmer said.
Watson and Thomas are working on a proposal to create a bachelor’s degree program that would leverage the strengths of existing programs and serve as a stepping stone to graduate study in the health sciences.
University administrators and the Faculty Senate will need to approve the degree proposal before it goes to the state for approval later this semester.
“Not only will this health professions initiative help our enrollment, but we can help fill a need in the region as we begin to produce graduates in a variety of healthcare fields,” Zimmer said.
The university will soon begin recruiting faculty and administrators to design and run the graduate-level programs, Zimmer said.
The first phase of the initiative is being funded by a generous private gift to the university.
Watson was an adjunct faculty member in the School of Education from 2003 to 2008.
In March, she received the Leo E. Keenan Jr. Faculty Appreciation Award at the Fr. Joe Doino Awards Ceremony. Watson has also received two Keenan-Martine research grants, and was co-author in 2013 of a $19,000 Manley Trust Grant for the development of the new Health & Human Performance Lab.
Watson has been a faculty adviser for Enactus, a faculty ambassador for admissions, and served on several committees during her time at the university, including the School of Education Alumni Advisory Board, the Damietta Center for Multicultural Student Affairs, the Middle States Self-Study Committee, and the Executive Athletics Compliance Committee.
Watson has doctoral and master’s degrees in public health from Walden University, a master’s in exercise science from Bloomsburg (Pa.) University, and a bachelor’s in psychology from SUNY-Geneseo.
Thomas was director of the Center for Health Education and Wellness at the University of Scranton from 2007 to 2013.
Thomas has a doctorate in human development from Marywood University with a specialization in health promotion. She received her master’s in education from Elmira College and her bachelor’s in education from Slippery Rock University.
As director of the FHCP program, Thomas provides leadership in the management of pre-med student advising and program coordination. She also oversees the university’s selection process for all dual-admission students, works with administration to expand opportunities with healthcare professional schools, and collaborates with Olean General Hospital in administration of field learning and other educational opportunities.
Thomas is a member of the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions, an organization of more than 1,850 health professions advisers at colleges and universities throughout the United States and abroad.
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, we believe in the goodness of every person and in the ability of every person to do extraordinary things. St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them. Named the #5 best college value in the North by U.S. News and World Report, we are establishing pathways to internships, graduate schools and careers in the context of our renowned liberal arts tradition. Our students are becoming extraordinary.
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