Russell DiGate, Ph.D., was attracted to the position of Dean of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences for many reasons—chief among them the Vincentian Mission of St. John's University.
"That was a huge draw for me," he said during a recent interview. "For me, the Vincentian Mission is the most engaging aspect of St. John's, because I'm very interested in health care disparities. This is so important in a profession that, by its very nature, serves underprivileged populations. That's what the Vincentians are about, and that's what the health professions should be about."
DiGate, who has more than 20 years experience in higher education, most recently served as Provost of the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that role, he was Dean of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy at the University of Sciences.
"The Vincentian Mission is unique among all colleges of pharmacy," he stressed. "I want to trumpet this. When people think of St. John's—and any of the health sciences—the first thing that comes to their mind should be that this is the place to go if you want to be trained in community health, service to diverse populations and understanding poverty."
He added, "My goal is to make sure that every one of our programs has overt components that you can tell are from a University with a Vincentian Mission."
At St. John's, DiGate pointed out that the Vincentian Mission is a central tenet of all the processes and programs. "That’s not the case with many institutions. It’s incredibly attractive to me, especially given the locale. Queens—where our main campus is located—is New York City’s most diverse borough, and the metropolitan area is one of the most diverse in the world.”
These factors, said DiGate, “compelled” him to accept the challenges of his new position. "Bringing my experience here, I’m able to focus our programs toward the ultimate goal of providing the finest health science education to a very broad and diverse population. It’s an important mission, one that enhances the health and welfare of the entire community.”
DiGate also was impressed by the College’s focus on interdisciplinary training and education. "There’s a reason why this isn’t just known as the ‘College of Pharmacy,'” he said. “I'm a big believer in interdisciplinary training, and what better place to do that than at a University with a Pharm.D. program, along with programs for Physician Assistant, Radiologic Sciences and Clinical Sciences, among others?"
As Dean, DiGate looks forward to engaging students, faculty and alumni by being a presence among them. "Being out there physically, showing you have a real interest in them, is critical,” he observed. “You don't want people thinking you're isolated in an ivory tower. You need to be out there among them."
Ultimately, DiGate declared, he aims “to convey to students my excitement about all the health professions. That's what I want them to see. During their academic careers, if you present people to students who are really passionate about their chosen profession, you will not only engage them, but you'll also engage faculty and alumni. That's the crux of it."