John CapitmanDr. John Capitman, executive director of the Central Valley Health Policy Institute and a professor of public health at California State University, Fresno, is the inaugural Sister Ruth Marie Nickerson Distinguished Professor in Health Policy.
“Sister Ruth Marie made such important contributions to improving the health of people in the Valley; it is a huge honor to receive a Distinguish Professorship honoring her,” said Capitman.
“I hope with this support to continue the work of the Central Valley Health Policy Institute in bringing together community and university resources to promote equity in health and health care throughout the San Joaquin Valley region,” Capitman added.
Nickerson, a nun of the Sisters of the Holy Cross order, served St. Agnes Medical Center as president and chief executive officer for 20 years, working closely with Fresno State to develop the concept of a Central Valley Health Policy Institute to help improve health care.
The idea came to life in 2002 with a partnership between the university and The California Endowment that provided $4 million over five years go establish the institute. The California Endowment continues as a partner in the institute.
Others who share Nickerson’s vision of long-term commitment to improving Valley health care donated to endow the professorship that bears her name.
Under Capitman, the institute conducts regional research on critical health issues, including air pollution, impact of health care reform, mental health, disparities in health care access, aging and progress toward “Healthy People 2010” goals. The Institute also supports research fellowships, trains students in research practices and provides student health care internships.
Capitman received his bachelor’s degree in linguistics from Yale University and a doctorate in social psychology from Duke University. He came to Fresno in 2005 from Brandeis University, bringing more than 20 years of experience in and research into health inequities in varied populations, substance abuse, long-term care and racial/ethnic disparities in cancer care.
“Dr. Capitman’s extensive background, commitment to the community and leadership are only three of the qualities that make him perfect for this distinguished professorship,” said Dr. Andrew Hoff, dean of the College of Health and Human Services.
Nickerson advocated for improved Valley health care. She was Fresno County’s representative on The California Endowment board of directors and served on the University Advisory Board at Fresno State, helping forge the partnership that launched the institute within the university’s College of Health and Human Services. Her impact was recognized in 2005, when she was awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters by the California State University for service to Fresno State and the region.
“Sister Ruth Marie always worked as hard for the community as she did for St. Agnes, and that is what distinguishes her as an exemplary leader,” said university President John D. Welty. “Through her vision, an important link was forged between higher education and health care in the Central California region.”
Nickerson Nickerson resides at the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind.
Central Valley Health Policy Institute