Human Trafficking Expert Donna Sabella Named to UMass Amherst College of Nursing’s First Endowed Chair

Nursing Alumna Susan Hagedorn’s Endowment Targets Clinical Practice Impact on Social Justice
Donna Sabella
Donna Sabella

AMHERST, Mass.  – Donna Sabella, an international expert in human trafficking’s clinical implications for women, and a clinician with broad experience in crisis intervention, substance abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault and forensic nursing, has been named Seedworks Endowed Professorship in Nursing and Social Justice at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

It is the College of Nursing’s first endowed chair, funded by nursing alumna Susan Hagedorn “for the purpose of promoting social justice.” The endowment is named for Seedworks Films, a documentary production company founded by Hagedorn “to bring the viewers inside the experience of nursing and being nursed, the experience of vulnerability, and the lives of those who step beyond what they ever expected they’d do with their lives.”

Sabella comes to UMass Amherst from Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, where she served in dual roles as director of global studies and director of the office of human trafficking. Presently she is the coordinator of the certificate in human trafficking program there.

College of Nursing Dean Stephen Cavanagh said that he believes Sabella stands to “advance social justice in ways that will have lasting impact on students, communities and the nursing practice.”

“This position is a real game changer,” said Cavanagh. “I don’t think anything like it exists in the nursing world. Nurses are real advocates in the health sector and this position will help magnify and embolden the power they hold.” 

In establishing the endowed professorship, Hagedorn said that she believes that “nursing is, at its root, about social justice.”

“Dr. Sabella has the important job of operationalizing social justice and nursing at UMass Amherst College of Nursing,” said Hagedorn.

Hagedorn appeared at UMass Amherst most recently on Feb. 4 to screen and discuss her 2012 documentary “Deputized ¿Como Pudo Pasar?” which focuses on the 2008 Long Island hate crime that took the life of 37-year-old Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero.

Hagedorn and Cavanaugh pointed to a long list of accomplishments through which Sabella, who trained as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, has applied her clinical talents to social action. These include serving as:

  • founder and director of Project Phoenix, an outreach program which provides support for trafficked and prostituted women in Philadelphia;

  • former program director and founding member of Dawn’s Place, a residential recovery program for women facing similar circumstances, also in Philadelphia;

  • contributing editor for Mental Health Matters, the mental health column in the American Journal of Nursing; and

  • co-founder and an Associate Editor of the Journal of Human Trafficking.

Sabella will join the UMass Amherst College of Nursing faculty on July 1.

Contact: Olivia Frazier, 413/545-1707,

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