A St. Ambrose alum, entrepreneur, and former White House staffer with a passion for solving problems. A department chair who has been on the front lines of healthcare education delivery, helping people regain their independence. A former Peace Corps volunteer who served in Africa, dedicating her life to empowering vulnerable populations.
What do these amazing leaders have in common? They bring a global perspective, passion for health, a vision for person-centered delivery of care, and dedication to system change to St. Ambrose University's Institute for Person-Centered Care.
Thomas J. Higgins
Thomas Higgins is an active investor and entrepreneur in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was the founding CEO (2003-2008) of Prosetta Biosciences and is currently chairman of the board of directors. He was also a co-founder of Amber Kinetics and serves as chair of its board. In addition, he is a long time director and past chair of Akonni Biosystems.
Prior to that, he was President and Chief Operating Officer of Business for Social Responsibility. BSR is the leading global resource for businesses seeking to improve their performance in areas of corporate social responsibility.
Higgins served in the administration of former President Jimmy Carter, beginning as a senior executive at HHS and later as Associate Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. He was then appointed by the president to the White House Senior Staff where he served as Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet.
Early in his public career, he was elected to the Iowa General Assembly at the age of 27, where he served three terms and was chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee. In the early 1980s, he was the head of the Health and Social Services Department in Portland, Oregon.
In 1983, he began his private sector career as founding Publisher and President of The Business Journal in Portland. Subsequently, Higgins became the co-founder and editor-in-chief of HealthWeek, a national newspaper covering health business news in the United States.
In 1990, Higgins was recruited as a vice president of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Maryland. He later was elected as its Senior Vice President with broad responsibilities for operations and staff organizations, as well as its subsidiary holdings.
Higgins began his energy-related career at Southern California Edison and Edison International in 1995, serving as a Senior Vice President. Edison is a $15 billion power generation and electric distribution company. During his career with the company, Higgins served on the management committee and helped to set overall strategy for the company. He had responsibility for several staff functions and was president of Edison Enterprises, an unregulated subsidiary.
As part of his community service, Higgins serves as a director on the board of the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC). He is a member of the Board of Trustees of St. Ambrose University, where he graduated cum laude in 1967. For almost 20 years, he has been a board member for SCAN Health Plan, a non-profit Medicare HMO, and was founding chair of The SCAN Foundation, an independent philanthropy focused on improving senior care support and services in America.
Ann Garton, MSN, RN, CNE
Ann Garton has been appointed as Director for the St Ambrose University Institute for Person-Centered Care. Ann will continue to serve as Clinical Associate Professor within the University’s Department of Nursing.
Garton earned a Master of Nursing Administration (MSN) degree from St. Ambrose University and bachelor degrees from Gannon University and Mercyhurst University, both in Erie, Penn. She is currently working towards her Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) with a focus of global population health from Indiana Wesleyan University.
Ann has spent her professional career in Nursing and secondary and higher education. In both health care and education, she has worked toward creating environments supporting person-centered practices. She enjoys engaging the person in their educational or health care needs to improve their individual success.
In a previous role, Ann led and consulted for local community and critical access hospitals leading them towards successful ANCC Magnet Certification. The Magnet program recognizes organizations worldwide whose nursing departments successfully align strategic goals to improve patient outcomes. Her leadership within nursing was recognized in 2011 by being named one of 100 Great Iowa Nurses.
She believes in the power of volunteering, currently serving on the Board of Directors for Tapestry Farms. Her family is a Safe Family for families in crisis. Ann was co-chair of the BIX 7 medical tent here in the Quad Cities and continues to volunteer as Chair of the last mile. In 2016, Ann volunteered abroad within refugee camps in France where she led volunteers to create a medical supply room and processes to enhance safety for health care volunteers as well as for refugees.
Ann will continue to teach within the SAU Nursing Department. She has developed or taught courses such as nursing fundamentals; theory; clinical experiences; evidence-based practice; and chronicity and palliative care. She has developed a mentoring program for adjunct clinical faculty which helps retention and faculty/student outcomes.
She looks forward to leading the Institute of Person-Centered Care and engaging our partners in becoming fluent in person-centered care practices.
Sandra Cassady, PT, PhD
Sandra Cassady was appointed vice president for strategic initiatives at St. Ambrose University in July of 2015. She continues to serve as dean of the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS), a role she assumed in December 2010.
The Master of Public Health is the third graduate degree program introduced under her CHHS leadership, joining the Master of Physician Assistant Studies program that began in the summer of 2014 and the Master of Exercise Physiology, which debuted this past August. She also oversaw the transition of the occupational therapy program from a master's to a doctoral degree program and led the planning for design and development of the Center for Health Sciences at Genesis.
As director of the physical therapy program, she led its transition from a master's to a doctoral degree.
A licensed physical therapist, Cassady joined the St. Ambrose faculty in 1994. She holds the rank of full professor and oversees academic advising in the College. Her prior administrative roles at St. Ambrose include serving as director of the Physical Therapy Department, associate dean of the College, and associate vice president for academic affairs.
She serves on the Board of Directors of the United Way of the Quad Cities, and the Quality and Safety Committee of the Genesis Health System board. She earned a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Northern Iowa, and received her master's degree in physical therapy and doctoral degree in exercise science from the University of Iowa.
Melissa Sharer, MPH, MSW, PhD
Melissa Sharer joined St. Ambrose University in August as the founding director of the Master of Public Health program.
A native of Geneseo, Ill., she has spent the past 22 years working in health in development, relief, and post-conflict/transitional settings. She developed her professional interest during a volunteer assignment with the Peace Corps in Armenia following her graduation from the University of Illinois in 1994.
Sharer's professional focus has always centered on maternal health, HIV/AIDS, mental health, youth, gender, and violence issues. She has provided remote and on-site technical support in over 25 countries in Africa and Asia focused on programs, policy, and operations research. She has also authored several publications focused on mental health, HIV, and youth affected by HIV and AIDS.
She has a master's degree in public health and a master's in social work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a PhD in social work from The Catholic University of America in Washington DC, where her primary focus was on the interplay between mental health, social support, and resilience among youth affected by HIV.
At CUA she taught Research, Policy, and Human Behavior & Psychopathology while working at John Snow Research and Training Institute as the Project Director for a youth-focused sports for development program and as a Senior Advisor for HIV programs.
Kate Horberg, MSEd
Kate joined St. Ambrose University in October 2017 as the administrative assistant for the Institute for Person-Centered Care and Master of Public Health program.
Before joining the Institute, Kate worked as a Community Health Volunteer in the United States Peace Corps, serving in Cameroon, Africa from 2011-2013. Her direct public health practice in Cameroon focused on HIV prevention, maternal and child health, malaria, and nutrition.
Post-Peace Corps she returned to the Quad Cities where she completed her master's degree in Education with a concentration in Language, Culture, and Education and TESOL Certification from Western Illinois University.