February 1, 2011

UCMC appoints new president

Sharon O’Keefe, president of the Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, IL, has been appointed as the president of the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC). She will begin February 23.

With decades of experience in hospital administration, clinical program management, and improving patient and staff satisfaction, O’Keefe plans to bring her expertise to the University.

“There’s tremendous commitment, alignment, [and] momentum of all of the leadership team to take on all of the challenges that are going to be in front of academic medical centers,” O’Keefe said. “I truly am both honored and excited to take on the challenges.”

O’Keefe will be taking over the position from interim president Ken Sharigian. Sharigian has held the position since the departure of David Hefner, who served for three years beginning in 2006. O’Keefe 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.

O’Keefe said she wants to make the U of C the strongest hospital in the Chicago area and a top competitor nationwide.

“There is an interest in operational excellence, and I think one thing is the operations of the medical center need to rival the quality of the science at the institution,” she said.

O’Keefe also said her experience at research universities that serve the community, including Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and Washington University in St. Louis, would help her to balance the University’s community service mission with research goals. “For me, they’re exciting business and clinical challenges to solve,” she said.

“It really does come down to working with the clinical leadership to ensure that there’s alignment in priorities and where resources are allocated,” O’Keefe said. “I’d like to meet with some patients; I’d like to understand perspectives of the community.”

O’Keefe is a Chicago native who earned a B.S. in nursing from Northern Illinois University in 1974 and a M.S. in nursing from Loyola University Medical School. She served as director of nursing at Johns Hopkins for six years before becoming associate hospital director at Monte Fiore Hospital in the Bronx, NY. She also spent two years as a senior manager for health care at the accounting firm Ernst & Whinney (now Ernst & Young).

She returned to hospital administration in 1989 as senior vice president for operations at the University of Maryland Medical System in Baltimore. In 1999, she joined Harvard Medical School teaching affiliate Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center as executive vice president and chief operating officer. In 2002, she became chief operating officer at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

“I’m a very active leader. I like to get out and touch and feel the operations,” O’Keefe said. “I’m actually very much looking forward to getting to know the staff and experience their working environment.”