Sister Carol A. Keehan, '80
on November 9, 2009
Sister Carol Ann Keehan, ’80 Business, is the 2009 recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award. The award is named for the great humanitarian and philanthropist and is given to an outstanding alumnus or alumna who has served others in a manner that goes beyond what is required by the individual’s job or profession.
Sister Carol, a member of the Daughters of Charity for more than 40 years, is the President and CEO of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, which is the trade group for Catholic hospitals based in St. Louis. She has held influential roles in the governance of a variety of health care, insurance, and educational organizations. She’s been an advocate to ensure that the United States develops a “fair and just health care policy” for all citizens, including those with no health insurance.
A registered nurse, Sister Carol has been a hospital administrator and executive for more than 35 years and has spent time testifying on Capitol Hill, arranging conferences, making speeches and publishing articles. She’s won numerous awards throughout her career, including the Moore School of Business Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2000.
“It was a huge surprise and a great honor to hear from the President of the University about my being chosen for this wonderful award,” Sister Carol says. “I researched the award and was even more humbled by the selection. Another feeling I had was there’s no end to how wonderfully I have been treated by the University of South Carolina.”
Currently residing in Bladensburg, MD, at the Elizabeth Seton High School, with other Daughters of Charity, Sister Carol was born in Washington, D.C. She joined the Daughters of Charity in 1964 after graduating from the DePaul Hospital School of Nursing in Virginia, and was convinced that this was what God was asking her to do with her life. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from St. Joseph’s College in Maryland in 1968. Sister Carol was the supervisor at the Sacred Heard Children’s Hospital and Regional Perinatal Intensive Care Center in Pensacola, FL, for ten years when she found the program at the University of South Carolina tailored to hospital finances.
“As someone who serves on hospital boards and other boards, as well as someone who is constantly trying to find a way to make healthcare programs work for the economically poor, I thought it would be very helpful,” Sister Carol says. “In addition, it was not only structured around the right topics and subjects, but it was fast-paced, comprehensive and had me in class with not only competent faculty, but with other students who were living the issues on a daily basis.”
Looking back, Sister Carol has many fond memories of her days on the Carolina Campus.
“My best memories of being a student at the University of South Carolina was working with the other students and enjoying the camaraderie of them, as well as the sense of achievement when we were able to survive a fairly grueling schedule, because we were in an executive program and to see the satisfaction we all had at helping each other get through and the pride the faculty took in having designed and implemented the program successfully,” Sister Carol says.
She also notes that there were many professors she admired.
“I chose to do my master’s thesis on insurance because of my respect for Dr. Travis Pritchet,” Sister Carol recalls. “He was extraordinarily knowledgeable in insurance and a very gentle and helpful person who was patient as I worked to develop the thesis and present it.”
Caring for others
Since leaving Carolina, Sister Carol worked as the Vice President for Nursing, Ambulatory Care and Education Training at Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C., for five years before moving on to be the Vice President for Nursing and Pastoral Care at Sacred Heart Hospital in Cumberland, MD, from 1984-87. That was followed by a two year stint as the President and C.E.O of Sacred Heart Hospital, before serving as the President and C.E.O. of Providence Hospital and Carroll Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Washington, D.C. from 1989 through 2004.
Sister Carol is now the President and C.E.O. of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, which is the nation’s largest group of not-for-profit hospitals and other health facilities, aimed at promoting compassionate health care for all. She is passionate about fair and just policies in health care. Some of her responsibilities include understanding the legislative impacts of healthcare legislation and advocating for appropriate legislation to facilitate the work of the members of CHA.
“This can range from things like reimbursement in the Medicare program, to the current healthcare reform debates and other areas such as disaster preparation and community benefit,” Sister Carol says. “I also work closely with other organizations that share our mission of healthcare to the American people. In addition, I work closely with our members to develop education programs to help members of the staff, the governing board and sponsors. We also work closely with the bishops of the United States and the clinical and theological leaders in our membership to develop ethical guidelines for the care of our patients and our staff members. In addition, I work with our Association to assure we maintain close and effective ties with the appropriate organizations in the Vatican.”
Humble on the impact of her accomplishments, Sister Carol has had influential roles in the governance of many health care, insurance and educational organizations. She has earned a long list of awards and honors, including The Cross for the Church and Pontiff, bestowed by Pope Benedict XVI.
“One of the wonderful things about working in healthcare or in a healthcare association is that very few, if any, accomplishments are individual,” Sister Carol says. “Most of them have to do with a group effort. And certainly, the successes at the Catholic Health Association are those.”
She has testified on Capitol Hill, and is often busy arranging conferences, giving speeches and publishing articles, but Sister Carol truly enjoys her work.
“The best part of my job is working with the members and helping them to be able to live out their missions in their local communities better because of the assistance we as an Association have brought to them,” Sister Carol Says.
While her work keeps her on the road quite a bit, she does not get to return to Carolina as often as she would like, but staying in touch with the University is still very important.
“It is important to stay connected to the University because I have such an affection for many of the people there and the mission of the University, as well as such pride in the growth and development of the University,” Sister Carol says. “It also is wonderful to meet all over the country, people who tell me they were from the University of South Carolina and were reading the alumni journal and realized I was a graduate of their university.”