Public Invited to University of Mary’s First National Medical Professionals Conference

St Gianna

November 1, 2019, couldn’t have been a more appropriate day for a university president to ask the family of a saint if it could honor their mother by naming its school of health sciences after her. After all, it was All Saints’ Day. On that day, with approval from her family, University of Mary announced during its annual Candlelight Gala, amongst hundreds of friends, supporters, and benefactors, that it would be naming its school of health sciences – the largest of its 5 academic schools – after Saint Gianna Beretta Molla.

The new patroness of the University of Mary’s school of health sciences is a modern-day saint, an Italian physician and devoted wife and mother. While pregnant with her fourth child, she developed a life-threatening complication. To reduce the risk to her life, doctors recommended that she have an abortion, but Gianna refused, insisting that her doctors prioritize the life of her baby, even while doing what they could to save them both. She gave birth to a daughter, Gianna Emanuela, on April 21, 1962, and died seven days later on April 28 (now her feast day). She was canonized in 2004 and is the patron saint of mothers, physicians, and preborn children.

The newly named Saint Gianna School of Health Sciences includes an array of academic programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels in nursing (ranked #1 in the nation in both 2019 and 2021 by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing), physical therapy, occupational therapy, bioethics, kinesiology, clinical exercise physiology, speech-language pathology, respiratory therapy, athletic training, radiologic technology, medical laboratory science, exercise science, communication sciences and disorders, and biomechanics.

“When the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery founded Mary College in 1959, health sciences were there from the beginning and continue to lead the way, including the awarding of the first master’s degrees in nursing and the first doctoral degrees in physical therapy,” explained Dr. Mary Dockter, dean of the Saint Gianna School of Health Sciences (SGSHS). “In light of that legacy, it is tremendously important to us that the education our graduates receive is specialized with a focus on skill development and expertise, servant leadership, ethical decision making, and moral courage. For these reasons and more, the University of Mary has commended our entire School of Health Sciences to the patronage of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, an Italian physician who was a skilled practitioner, a woman of courageous faith, a caregiver admired by her patients, and a mother who ultimately gave her life for her own unborn child. The name, combined with beautiful photos and quotes in aesthetically pleasing and highly functional spaces, provides tangible reminders of the mission and vision of the Saint Gianna School of Health Sciences. Additionally, the space now allows for enhanced interprofessional learning, including an on-campus pro bono clinic, for all health science students in which they can learn from and with each other.”

To continue honoring her life, on what would have been her 100th birthday on Tuesday, October 4, 2022, the University of Mary’s Saint Gianna School of Health Sciences is hosting its first annual national Medical Professionals Conference on campus in Founders Hall of the Lumen Vitae University Center (LVUC). Among the lineup of speakers is the pro-life champion Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund). She is joined by some of the nation’s most respected bioethicists, discussing ways to transform health care at all stages of life by upholding the dignity of the human person through compassionate, courageous, ethical, and joyful care.

The conference, which is free and open to the public, begins with a welcome from the University of Mary President Monsignor James Shea and Dockter. Mancini begins with a keynote entitled Moral Courage and Advocacy in Action. Dr. Ashley Fernandes, associate director of the Center for Bioethics at The Ohio State University of Medicine and currently directing ethics education for all pediatric residents at Nationwide Children’s Hospital presents Courage in Medicine. Dr. Jennifer Perone, a graduate of The Ohio State University of Medicine, is a second-year surgical oncology fellow at the Moffitt Cancer Center at University of South Florida and will offer a talk on Faith and Reason. Dr. DiAnn Ecret, who has 35 years of combined nursing experience, is a full-time professor at Ave Maria University, and works with the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC), gives the final presentation The Effect of Hierarchy on Moral Science in Health Care: What Can the Holocaust Teach Us.” Both morning and afternoon sessions will have a question-and-answer panel. Registration for the event begins on site from 7:30 a.m. until 8 a.m. The day’s itinerary, campus map, and speaker biographies can be found on the Saint Gianna Medical Professionals Conference web page.

“We are thrilled to bring in four outstanding and nationally recognized speakers to campus showcasing the dignity of life in health care,” added Dockter. “The speakers’ focus will be on moral courage and advocacy, vital skills for healthcare students and providers, who face a myriad of professional and ethical dilemmas such as beginning and end of life care, medical research in areas such as geoengineering and genome editing, and care for the poor and marginalized. Faculty in the SGSHS desire for our graduates to not only be the very best in their chosen professions, but to be exemplars of moral courage, defenders of the sanctity of life and dignity of the human person.” 

Following Mass, the media is invited to a ribbon cutting featuring Shea, special guests, and Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, the child for whom Saint Gianna gave her life, at 5 p.m. beginning outside in front of the Clairmont Center. The ceremony officially dedicates the new Saint Gianna School of Health Sciences.

The new Saint Gianna School of Health Sciences (SGSHS) is approximately 35,000 square feet of renovated space beginning in the lower level of the Lumen Vitae University Center (LVUC), then extending under the Hamm School of Engineering, and reaching the Casey Center. SGSHS features a dedicated Syndaver and anatomy center, classrooms customized for speech language pathology, biomechanics, and athletic training, three large labs for physical therapy and occupational therapy, seven clinic rooms for on-campus pro bono clinics and student assessment, dedicated life skills lab for OT, a dedicated exercise physiology lab, a flexible pro bono clinic and practice space for SGSHS students, and 38 new offices for SGSHS faculty and staff that allows for interpersonal collaboration.

Aesthetically, the new space in the Saint Gianna School of Health Sciences is adorned with encouraging murals, featuring imagery and quotes relating to healthcare in the inspiring voices of the saints.  

Anyone who wishes to learn more about health sciences or other undergraduate programs can do so at, or by contacting an admissions representative at, or by calling (701) 355-8030. The University of Mary is one of only 15 Recommended Cardinal Newman Society Residential Colleges and Universities in the US.

About the University of Mary: True to its motto “lumen vitae”—The Light of Life—the University of Mary offers education for the whole of life through cutting-edge professional programs and graduate programs animated by moral courage and leadership in chosen professions and service to the community. A private, co-educational Catholic institution, the University of Mary welcomes students of all faiths and backgrounds.

A Christian, Catholic, Benedictine institution founded in 1959 by the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery, Mary offers nearly 60 bachelor’s, 15 master’s, and five doctoral programs—in Business Administration, Education, Nursing Practice, Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy. The 19-sport Athletic Department adheres to its Greatness Through Virtue mission under the governance of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) conferences. With more than 3,800 students, Mary has locations in North Dakota, Montana, Arizona, Rome, Italy, as well as vibrant online offerings. For more information, visit