Following an extensive search, Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) has named Kimberly A. Panko, DNP, RN, president of the St. Elizabeth College of Nursing (SECON) in Utica, New York, effective Monday, June 6, 2022.

“In its nearly 118-year history, SECON has graduated thousands of nurses who have gone on to take care of the people of this community,” said Darlene Stromstad, FACHE, president/CEO of MVHS. “Building upon its long legacy, we look to SECON, and Dr. Panko, to help take us into the future as we educate the nurses of tomorrow and open our new, state-of-the-art Wynn Hospital next year. The role of president of SECON is vital to ensuring this region has access to strong nursing. Dr. Panko will be an integral leader in our recovery from the pandemic and our ability to deal with workforce shortages. Educating the next generation of nurses is critical to our success and we are so lucky to have such a well-established and respected College as part of our system. Dr. Panko is the best person to take over the reins and move us into the future of healthcare in our community.”

“Dr. Panko brings a significant background in nursing, leadership and academia,” said Kathy Horn, chair of SECON Board of Directors. “In addition, she is a dynamic, results-driven leader who will have a strong impact at SECON on our students, faculty, staff and community. I’m looking forward to Dr. Panko continuing our legacy of educating outstanding frontline nurses and leaders and creating innovative and exemplary academic programs. Dr. Panko’s vision toward the future and building partnerships are vital to SECON’s continued growth and evolution.”

“My entire career has been spent providing care to this community, so to be able to take on the role of president of SECON at this juncture is exhilarating,” said Dr. Panko. “There are so many new and exciting things happening at MVHS and in our community, I am grateful that I have the opportunity to contribute to the excitement through my work at the College. Our students are the future of healthcare in this community, and I am thrilled to prepare them for this wonderful profession.”

Dr. Panko succeeds Varinya Sheppard, DNP, RN, CENP, who announced her retirement after a 40 year nursing career in which she not only served as president of the College, but held multiple nursing roles including chief nursing officer at St. Elizabeth Medical Center. Dr. Sheppard accomplished a great deal in her time at SECON and is leaving a discernable imprint and a strong legacy. Recently, Dr. Sheppard implemented a tuition reimbursement program at SECON which waives tuition for years spent working at MVHS, resulting in a doubling of applications. She has continued to play an integral role while a new leader was recruited, helping ensure a smooth transition and will conclude her term as president on Sunday, June 1, 2022.

Dr. Panko has worked for MVHS since 2001 and currently serves as director of Nursing, Medical Surgical and Acute-Inpatient Rehabilitative Services for MVHS. Before taking her current role, Dr. Panko worked for SECON as dean of Students and Faculty Development and as nursing instructor/course coordinator. Dr. Panko has more than 28 years of experience in various nursing positions.

Dr. Panko earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice, Systems Leadership from Chamberlain College of Nursing in Downers Grove, Illinois, her Master of Science in Nursing, Administration from Clarkson College in Omaha, Nebraska, her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from State University of New York at Utica/Rome in Utica, New York and her Associate of Applied Science in Nursing from Northern Maine Technical College in Presque Isle, Maine.



SECON is a single purpose, non-profit college founded in 1904. SECON offers multiple curriculum plans including a weekday program, an evening/weekend program and the SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly)/SECON Dual Degree (1+2+1) Partnership in Nursing which provides students the opportunity to earn two degrees in four years: an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree from SECON and a Bachelor of Science degree from SUNY Poly.

Graduates from this program will not only have a fulfilling career to look forward to, but they will also be working in the newest hospital in New York State when the Wynn Hospital opens next year.

SECON programs provide the best preparation to work in today’s health care environment, a one-to-one relationship with faculty, experience with top of the line technology and the most extensive hands-on clinical experience available in a nursing program today.

Visit for more information.