Keefer talks ‘accountability’ in first employee Town Hall

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AU Health CEO Katrina Keefer

Accountability was the theme of Augusta University Health CEO Katrina Keefer’s first employee Town Hall since arriving last summer. The forum, which took place Wednesday, Feb. 5, in the Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Jr. Auditorium on the Health Sciences Campus, is the first of three sessions aimed at soliciting employee feedback.

Born in Tifton, Georgia, and raised in Monroeville, Alabama, Keefer started the presentation with an introduction of herself and her favorite canine companion, Bella. The two moved here in July, along with Keefer’s partner, David, who travels to and from Montgomery, Alabama, for work.

Keefer spoke briefly about her educational background in business and public administration and her professional experience as chief financial officer for the University of Alabama Birmingham Health System’s Baptist Health before highlighting her priorities and her ask of employees, which focused on accountability for individuals.

“We’re all caregivers,” she said. “We need to be accountable to ourselves and those around us. We need to think critically and ethically. We need to communicate with clarity and civility.”

She also talked about discontinuing the system’s reliance on outside consultants and better promotion of internal expertise.

“Consultants kill your culture,” she said. “We need to be our own experts. We need to be innovative; being innovative means you have permission to fail.”

She went on to highlight themes for her first six months, including solvable problems, more efficient care delivery, better integration of support and shared services, a sustainable path back to profitability, areas of growth, and her distinction of “presiders” versus “button pushers,” or those individuals only attending meetings versus those doing the work of caring for patients.

“We need more button pushers,” she said. “We need people who can do more than just attend meetings. I’m the CEO and CFO and do my own PowerPoints. We can all do a lot more.”

Keefer boasted several achievements, including the completion of Fiscal Year 2020 operating and capital budgets, accreditations and certifications for trauma and cardiology programs, elimination of non-essential spending, expansion of surgical services, redesign of lease space to accommodate imaging and pediatric subspecialties in Columbia County, deployment of telemedicine in five rural hospitals, organizational changes to support future growth, and a focus on revenue cycle.

“We’ve been negotiating as an organization from a position of weakness,” she said. “We are Augusta University Health System. People want to be part of what we do. We should be negotiating from a place of strength.”

Continuing her focus on culture, Keefer remarked on the system’s challenges, including a need to retain and support employees and data from the most recent employee and physician engagement survey.

“We’ve got to change our culture,” she said. “That is the hard part. That’s what we’re going to wake up every day and think about.”

Keefer also mentioned the system’s need to expand and the challenges associated with growing too fast on an evolving revenue cycle.

“We’re operating a huge medical school and residents on a baby chassis,” she said. “We need to grow.”

She concluded the presentation with questions from the audience and a commitment to transparency.

“Everybody in my office should be ready to address and engage employees,” she said. “The only way I know how to do that is to lead by example. We’ve got to figure out how we communicate upward and downward, and I need your help to figure out how we hold managers accountable for doing the right thing for our employees.”

She asked employees to email her their ideas for what success at Augusta University Health looks like and noted her “open door” policy.

“My door is always open,” she said. “You can email me, but my door is open.”

Keefer will host two additional Town Halls for health system employees on Tuesday, Feb. 18, at 11:30 a.m., and Monday, Feb. 24, at 6 p.m. Both sessions will be held in the Auditoria Center on the Health Sciences Campus.

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Written by
Christen Engel

Christen Engel is Associate Vice President of Communications at Augusta University. Contact her to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at

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Written by Christen Engel

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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