Yale People: For Siobhan Thompson, making the world a better place is a family trait
Siobhan Thompson was recently honored for 30 years of service to Yale, but she has had a connection to Yale for her whole life.
As the daughter of two Yale staff members, the late Professor John D. Thompson and Dr. Andriana J. Natale, Siobhan Thompson grew up hearing conversations about the university, meeting her parents’ Yale friends and colleagues, and playing with her six siblings on Yale athletic fields not far from her family’s Westville home.
John D. Thompson was a professor of public health and nursing at Yale, who is well known for developing diagnosis-related groups (DRGs), a categorization system for ailments and their treatments that has since been universally used by hospitals. He also worked with former Yale School of Nursing dean Florence Wald on establishing hospice care in the United States. Dr. Andriana Natale, who is now retired, was one of the first directors of student health for Yale Health Plan (she held that position even before the former health services building was constructed on Hillhouse Avenue) and was a long-time clinical instructor at the School of Medicine. She worked until the age of 75 in the emergency department of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Siobhan Thompson says she was grateful that her mother was able to accompany her to the recent Long Service Recognition Dinner, held at Schwarzman Center on May 3. Adding their years of service together, the three Thompsons have devoted more than 90 years to Yale. Siobhan is currently writing a book about her mother and her experiences as a female surgeon coming of age in the 1950s.
After college, Siobhan began her career in 1985 as a research assistant at the School of Medicine, working full-time while earning a Master’s in Public Health degree. She has since held a number of research and administrative roles: research administrator/special projects director of the Yale AIDS Program; director of research administration for The Center for Self and Family Management Interventions for Vulnerable Populations and as project director of an exercise intervention trial for female cancer survivors at Yale School of Nursing; and as a researcher and program developer for clinical trials in nephrology, neurology, otolaryngology, oncology, and surgery at the School of Medicine. She is currently working at the Consultation Center at Yale, with program evaluation expert Dr. Joy Kaufman, on statewide behavioral health care program outcome evaluations and a national domestic violence intervention designed to reduce intimate partner homicide rates.
On her own time, Siobahn co-founded and is still engaged with the Connecticut Prison Hospice and Palliative Care Program in the Connecticut Department of Correction, which trains prison inmates to serve as volunteer bedside caregivers to other inmates in prison. Siobhan has brought this experience via a documentary short film she produced to the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars program at Yale, and to students at the Yale Divinity School and School of Nursing. She has volunteered for a number of local organizations, and was named a Yale University United Way Volunteer of the Year and a Big Brothers Big Sisters Volunteer of the Year (Connecticut chapter).
Asked how her parents and Yale influenced her own interests in promoting the health and well-being of others, Siobahn says: “For one thing, I often heard my parents discussing with Yale colleagues at our dinner table or in our living room how to make their own ideas and visions come to fruition, such as hospice care. My parents taught me the power of diversity in excellence and the privilege of making a difference. Whether it be the diversity of people, academic disciplines, research assignments, ideas, contributions, or pure talent — diversity cultivates excellence, thus privilege. I consider diversity to be a special characteristic of the Yale community and a personally satisfying aspect of my years of service. One example is how my Yale job and colleagues pushed and helped me shape my work in prisons and ultimately co-found the Connecticut Prison Hospice Program. It is the diversity of inmate hospice volunteers, the correctional staff, the Visiting Nurses Association, and ministry volunteers, and my Yale colleagues who have made this transformational program successful for inmates and their families, as well as for the Connecticut State Prisons and the community.”
She says that her parents’ time at Yale before her gave her a special understanding of her own responsibilities to her community.
“They and so many of their Yale colleagues were dedicated to making the world a better place, a safer place, and they showed me I could be a part of that. For me, that’s the essence of Yale.”