Sharon O’Keefe to become President of the University of Chicago Medical Center

Sharon O’Keefe, a nationally recognized authority on hospital operations, health care quality, patient satisfaction and employee engagement, has been named President of the University of Chicago Medical Center, effective Feb. 23.

O’Keefe comes to the Medical Center from Loyola University Medical Center, in Maywood, Ill, where she has served as president since April 2009. Prior to that she served for seven years as chief operating officer at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

As Medical Center President, she will work with clinical faculty and the senior management team to improve the patient experience, develop outstanding clinical programs, and enhance staff and physician satisfaction. She will report to Kenneth Polonsky, Dean of the Division of the Biological Sciences and the Pritzker School of Medicine and Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs at the University of Chicago, who worked with O’Keefe at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

“I am excited to welcome Sharon O’Keefe to our senior leadership team,” said Polonsky. “She brings broad experience as a clinical and organizational leader, a passion to provide superior patient care, and a proven ability to work effectively with physicians, nurses and other health care professionals. She will be a tremendous addition.”

O’Keefe began her health care career as a critical care nurse. She soon advanced into more administrative roles, where she focused on improving hospital operations and performance, enhancing health care quality and safety, and increasing patient as well as employee satisfaction.

Her quality-improvement efforts led to national recognition. She was appointed an examiner for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2005. She currently serves on the National Institutes of Health Advisory Board for Clinical Research.

A Chicago native, O’Keefe, 58, received her bachelor of science in nursing from Northern Illinois University in 1974. In 1976, while working as a nurse at Loyola University Medical Center, she earned a master of science in nursing from that university’s nursing school. In 1979, she was recruited to Johns Hopkins Hospital as the director of nursing for surgical services. After six years at Hopkins, she became an associate hospital director at the 900-bed Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, N.Y.

From 1987 to 1989 she was senior manager for health care at the accounting firm, Ernst & Whinney (now Ernst & Young), where she developed a consulting practice focused on organizational design, operations improvement and large-scale change management. Clients included large, complex academic medical centers.

She returned to hospital administration in 1989 and spent ten years as senior vice president for operations at the University of Maryland Medical System in Baltimore, where she focused on clinical program development and customer satisfaction. Her efforts helped the Medical System become the first health care organization to receive the State of Maryland Quality and Productivity Award.

In 1999 she moved to Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. As executive vice president and chief operating officer, she developed and implemented a financial recovery plan for the recently merged but financially challenged hospitals. In 2002 she became chief operating officer at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, consistently ranked as one of the top ten hospitals in the United States.

“I have worked in health care for more than three decades, as a nurse, consultant, administrator and a hospital president, and I still have the passion for helping people that attracted me at the beginning,” O’Keefe said. “The opportunity to combine my clinical and administrative experiences to better position this leading-edge institution in the very competitive Chicago marketplace was impossible to resist.

“I look forward to working with the outstanding faculty and staff to improve hospital operations, build on the Medical Center‘s world-renowned clinical research programs and help to bring first-rate medical care to the University’s many local, regional and national communities,” she added.

O’Keefe takes over from Ken Sharigian, who has been serving as interim president of the Medical Center. “I would like to thank Ken Sharigian for his outstanding service during the transition,” said Polonsky. “His steady hand, good judgment and sense of fairness have been essential in leading the University of Chicago Medical Center through difficult challenges. We will continue to benefit from Ken’s skills in these areas and his expertise at building Medical Center relationships with the community through connections with neighboring hospitals and clinics and interactions with physicians in the community.”

O’Keefe is married to Hal Moore. They have a daughter, Mackenzie.

The University of Chicago Medical Center, established in 1927, is one of the nation’s leading academic medical institutions. It includes the Bernard Mitchell Hospital, the primary adult patient care facility; Comer Children’s Hospital, devoted to the medical needs of children; Chicago Lying-in Hospital, a maternity and women’s hospital; the New Hospital Pavilion, to open in 2013; and the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine, a state-of-the-art ambulatory-care facility with the full spectrum of preventive, diagnostic and treatment functions.