Ann O’Connell joined UTMB in 2013 as vice president for Ambulatory Operations. Her responsibilities include operational oversight and management of 90 UTMB clinics both on Galveston Island and the mainland.
Before joining the UTMB family, O’Connell was vice president of ambulatory care at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, Oregon. She spent 25 years at OHSU in a wide variety of leadership roles, including serving as executive director of a Federally Qualified Health Center and director of operations for 11 primary care practices. Prior to OHSU, she served as nurse manager for respiratory intensive care at National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine in Denver, Colorado. She has also held a variety of clinical and administrative roles at East Carolina University, where she was a clinical nurse specialist for nutrition support and clinical nurse in surgical intensive care.
She brings a rich experience of health care administration, a clinical nursing background and a broad understanding of academic medical centers. Originally from North Carolina, O’Connell received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from East Carolina University. She received her master’s in health care administration from Oregon Health Sciences University.
What does Best Care mean to you and how do you contribute?
Best Care to me means placing the patient in the center of everything we do. We do not provide care “to” the patient or “for” the patient, rather, we provide care together “with” the patient. We walk with our patients on their terms. We remove barriers such as race, gender, language, facilities and lack of access in order to form strong relationships with our patients. To me, Best Care is about relationships. Relationships create real change.
What are the biggest challenges you face as VP of Ambulatory Operations?
The staggering amount of growth across our ambulatory enterprise has been both a blessing and a challenge. We continue to open, acquire, relocate and build new practice sites. We are projected to have more than one million patient visits in FY17. The biggest challenge is making sure all patients who are seen across our 90 clinics obtain the timely care they need and would recommend UTMB to their family and friends.
What was your first job?
During high school, I had the opportunity to take a health occupations class. The class provided direct clinical experience within the local hospital. At the ripe age of 18, I was offered the chance to become an on-the-job trainee respiratory therapist. This opened up a whole new world of opportunities for me. I am so grateful to have had this early exposure to health care.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I enjoy walks on the beach with my husband, Kevin, and my dog, Frankie. My husband races bicycles. On the weekends, we enjoy traveling for his races to different parts of Texas. A few weeks ago we experienced Georgetown, Texas. What a jewel of a town. I love exploring Texas as if I were a tourist.
What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
Jodie Foster and I share the same grandmother! In 1994, Jodie was in my home town of Robbinsville, North Carolina, filming a movie entitled “Nell.” While there, she met my grandmother, Belle Cooper, at the local grocery store. She recruited my grandmother to be in the film. My grandmother played the role of Jodie’s grandmother.
If you could have only one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Anything that my grandmother made was always the best meal ever! She was an old-fashioned Southern cook. She made the best cathead biscuits ever.
What’s something you always wanted to do but have not done yet?
I want to be an advocate for seniors, underserved and non-English speaking patients who may have a difficult time navigating our complex health care system. For example, patients may not always understand their medical bills or the importance of properly taking medications. We cast patients into the role of being their own general contractors of care; however, they are often not properly equipped for the responsibility. Once I retire, I hope to search for such an advocacy opportunity.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
My husband and I often talk about taking a cruise around the world. That way we don’t have to choose one place—we can see it all over the course of one year.