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The College of St. Scholastica

The College of St. Scholastica and Essentia Health are pleased to announce a new partnership, establishing the Essentia Health Dean of the School of Health Professions. This permanently endowed deanship position, made possible by a $1.2 million commitment, will be a catalyst as both institutions strive to meet the evolving challenges in the healthcare industry.

The named position demonstrates a mutual, positive relationship between St. Scholastica and Essentia Health. The deanship will allow St. Scholastica, Essentia Health leadership and the broader medical community to partner more closely on health and nursing practice.

“We are honored to establish the Essentia Health Dean of Health Professions here at The College of St. Scholastica,” said Dr. David Herman, president and CEO of Essentia Health. “The shared values between Essentia and St. Scholastica have greatly accelerated our ability to partner and create a vision that benefits both organizations. With enhanced access to Essentia’s facilities and clinicians, students are better equipped to provide expert care as they transition into their careers.”

Dr. Barbara McDonald, president of The College of St. Scholastica, agreed: “We are deeply grateful to the Essentia Health organization for their support and very excited to see our partnership flourish for the good of the communities we serve in the rural northeast region. We are all acutely aware of the daunting shortages of healthcare workers, particularly in rural areas, and to that end, our collaboration is more critical than ever.”

A shared history of innovation

Since the late 1800s, the Benedictine Sisters of the St. Scholastica Monastery — who founded both The College of St. Scholastica and Essentia Health (as St. Mary’s Hospital) — have deeply focused on training healthcare providers. Informed by Benedictine values, St. Scholastica’s programs focus on educating the whole person through a liberal arts education, strengthening St. Scholastica’s reputation for graduating compassionate and qualified professionals sought by the healthcare industry.

Today, St. Scholastica is known as a premier healthcare education institution with programs spanning many medical fields, including Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Nursing, Physician Assistant, Health Information Systems and Management, Healthcare Administration, Pre-Med and more. Essentia Health employs more than 1,000 Saints alumni, including nearly 500 serving as nurses.

“Meeting the future needs of the healthcare workforce will require unparalleled strategic thinking, partnerships and collaboration between healthcare employers and institutions of higher education,” said Dr. Ryan Sandefer, St. Scholastica’s Vice President of Academic Affairs. “Some estimates place the healthcare workforce shortage at more than 3.2 million by 2026. This is most definitely a challenge, but it is also an opportunity for educators and practitioners to think creatively about how to recruit, educate, employ and retain individuals. It requires us to think differently about how students learn and will most definitely require us to think differently about where students learn. That is why I am so excited about the newly endowed Essentia Health Dean of Health Professions. The position is grounded in the idea that we can only move our health systems forward through innovative programming and strategic partnerships and better serve our communities.”

Dr. Michael Wendinger, who started his tenure as the first dean of the School of Health Professions in July 2023, will also serve as the first Essentia Health dean. “We are excited to have Dr. Wendinger serving in this role,” said Dr. McDonald. “His creative and innovative thinking, along with our faculty expertise, is a sure formula for success as we partner with Essentia’s medical community.”


Photo of St. Scholastica President Barbara McDonald, Dr. David Herman, and Dr. Dr. Ryan Sandefer signing the patnership agreement
St. Scholastica President Barbara McDonald, Dr. David Herman and Dr. Ryan Sandefer