Sr. Katherine Seibert, M.D., ’67 M.S., ’73 PhD

Despite her 85 years, Sr. Katherine Seibert, M.D., ’67 M.S., ’73 PhD continues to practice medicine. An oncologist and internal medicine practitioner, Dr. Seibert — until recently — spent two days a week at Hudson River HealthCare in New York’s Hudson River Valley, an area now regarded as the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.

After taking her vows in 1954, Seibert taught as a young nun. In the 1960s, Notre Dame offered a teacher training program, which she attended in the summers and, after five years, earned her master’s in biology in 1967. After graduation, Rev. James Doll, C.S.C. ’42, who Seibert had met through their work at Notre Dame’s LOBUND Laboratories, had asked her to stay, but it wasn’t until the fall of 1968 when she returned to pursue a doctorate in microbiology.

During her nights in Lewis Hall, Seibert struggled to sleep as her thoughts were occupied by people struggling with cancer. She knew she could serve those people more effectively in the medical field, so just before completing her PhD, she approached her superior about attending medical school. Three years later, she graduated from Creighton with intentions to pursue oncology.

Following medical school, she trained at the National Cancer Institute and St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis. After serving as chief of medical oncology at several hospitals in New York City, she was recruited to develop an oncology program in Sullivan County, New York, where there had been no cancer services previously. She also spent time in Billings County, North Dakota, setting up an oncology program there.

Ultimately, she moved to internal medicine when her sister became ill and has served as an internist at Hudson River HealthCare since 2007. Founded in the early 1970s by four women in the basement of a church to address the lack of accessible and affordable health care services in Peekskill, New York, HRHCare now serves 10 counties in the Hudson Valley and Long Island and treats not only the insured, but the uninsured and undocumented, regardless of their ability to pay.

Silvia Dall’Olio

Imagine you are charged with the health and safety of more than 100 students studying abroad, a formidable job under normal circumstances. Then imagine that a rapidly spreading mystery virus with no vaccine or cure that you thought was half a world away is suddenly on your doorstep.

Silvia Dall’Olio, executive director of Notre Dame’s Rome Global Gateway, says she felt like she was living in two worlds as the coronavirus rapidly spread through Italy in February. She watched a disaster unfold in the north of the country while life in Rome continued unfazed — and students prepared to attend big parties for Carnival, the festival just before Lent begins.

Dall’Olio is getting high marks from the University for how she reacted, keeping a cool head and taking all the right measures as the world’s second major COVID-19 hotspot was exploding around her. She credits her team in Rome, the University’s second-largest program abroad, and counterparts at Notre Dame International and the University’s Emergency Operations Center for the students’ ultimate safety.

Dall’Olio found Notre Dame through her now husband, Michael Driessen, a political science professor at John Cabot University in Rome. They met as students in Bologna, her hometown, through the community of L’Arche, a place where adults with and without intellectual disabilities share their lives together. They decided to get married, and three weeks after the wedding, she landed on the Notre Dame campus, where Driessen was earning his doctorate.

An assistant professional specialist of Romance languages, Dall’Olio earned a master’s degree and taught while at Notre Dame. She holds a doctoral degree in linguistics and second language pedagogy, and has worked internationally as a translator and language tutor, including at the Italian Embassy in Qatar’s capital, Doha. Dall’Olio has led the gateway for three years, but has worked there in various capacities since it opened in fall 2014.

She is particularly proud of the gateway’s formal designation last year by the Italian Education Ministry as an Italian research institution, and the Rome International Scholars Program, which combines traditional learning with research and internships.

Abby Heck ’21

Abby Heck is a junior on the women’s golf team, hailing from Memphis, Tenn. Below is an excerpt of her experience volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“On a typical day, I have my online classes, which begin at 7:20 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Once I’m done with class, I go to West Cancer Center, where I help screen patients for the coronavirus. I spend about twenty hours per week volunteering.

I’m a pre-med student interested in oncology. A doctor who I shadowed over Christmas break reached out to me saying they needed help with volunteers for, I think, two reasons. First, hospitals and clinics, and really all healthcare facilities, are understaffed to deal with such a pandemic. We have not faced such a large outbreak since the Spanish Flu nearly a hundred years ago. Second, most volunteers are older and at-risk; they especially need to stay home.

I’m right there in the doorway when people walk into the clinic. I ask about travel histories and symptoms. We don’t turn anyone away, but if someone looks like they could be displaying symptoms of the virus, they’re given a mask and seen separately. We have isolation rooms that are cleaned and kept empty for an hour between patients. These practices are aimed at preventing the spread of the virus. We’re trying to protect everyone there, especially the patients with cancer whose immune systems are already compromised.

It’s been really interesting to be here day after day. I’ve shadowed a lot of doctors in the past and in different fields, but I don’t usually have a chance to interact with patients or get to know them at all. Volunteering every day now, I see a lot of the same people, and I’ve had a lot of really meaningful conversations. I’ve seen women walk out after finishing their last breast cancer treatment. They’re so excited, and I’ve had fun celebrating with them. I’ve also seen patients who just received rather sad news about their prognosis. I’ve learned empathy, and that has been very moving.”

Hesburgh Women of Impact 2020 Retreat Update

To the Hesburgh Women of Impact,

It is with a heavy heart that I must announce the cancellation of the Hesburgh Women of Impact 2020 Retreat. Please know this decision was the result of careful consideration and discussion regarding the COVID-19 situation, with the safety and wellbeing of our speakers and attendees being our top priority. While this is disappointing, we know that this is the best course of action to protect our Notre Dame family, especially those who may be at a higher risk of infection.

If you have already registered for this year’s retreat, you will be refunded your entire registration fee. No action is required on your part. We have had women reach out to let us know that in the event the retreat was cancelled, they were interested in donating their registration fee to the Student Emergency Relief Fund. You can do so here. 100% percent of gifts made to the fund directly benefit those students whose financial status has been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While we aren’t able to gather this year, we do look forward to hosting everyone on campus for the Hesburgh Women of Impact Retreat in June of 2021! Next year’s retreat will run from June 25th-27th. We will be hosting the retreat in conjunction with the rescheduled Billy Joel concert, so registration for 2021 will again include the option to receive a premium club ticket. We will send out further information later in the year.

Thank you for all you do to support both the Hesburgh Women of Impact Initiative and the wider Notre Dame family. It is through our shared love, dedication, and belief in the mission that we will emerge from these challenging times stronger and more impactful than ever.

Please know that you and your families are in my prayers, and I eagerly await the day we can all gather together again under the Golden Dome.

Stay well.

With gratitude,
Grace Prosniewski