With years of experience in hospital leadership and health policy, Sister Carol Keehan, the Catholic Health Association's new chief executive officer, is no stranger to advocacy or lobbying Congress.
That doesn't mean Keehan, who took over as CHA president and CEO in October 2005, will be the only public face of the Catholic association, which represents roughly 2,000 members, including more than 600 Catholic hospitals. "Yes, you will see me," Keehan says, but she will also rely on Catholic hospitals, health systems or healthcare trade groups with similar goals, such as the American Hospital Association or Federation of American Hospitals, to publicly push policy-with the CHA's backing. "We have always looked for the best way to make the case for our message," she says.
Keehan succeeded the Rev. Michael Place, whose February 2005 retirement surprised industry insiders and professional peers, including Richard Davidson, president of the AHA. The CHA and AHA lobby together on shared policy interests; its a working relationship Keehan says will continue. While new to the role of president, the position allows Keehan to build on her existing relationship with Davidson and the AHA's policy and lobbying experts, she says.
A member of the Daughters of Charity order, Keehan worked actively with the AHA during her tenure as head of Providence Hospital, Washington, and board chairwoman of Sacred Heart Health System, Pensacola, Fla., she says. Keehan also served six years on the CHA's board, including one as chairwoman.
Keehan says that her role shaping policy encompasses many duties. "I would say it's probably very broad and multifaceted," covering everything from formulating policy with members to analyzing proposed legislation to advocacy. Keehan's tenure coincided with the CHA's launch of a multiyear effort to address access for uninsured patients, or, as Keehan describes it, "our constant preoccupation with what happens to the safety net."