Xavier Magazine

Profile: Mary Jean Ryan, F.S.M.

Mary Jean Ryan, F.S.M. Master of Health Administration, 1974 | President and CEO of SSM Health Care, St. Louis

Power Player | Ryan has headed SSM Health Care for 18 years. In August, she was named the seventh most powerful person in the health care field by industry trade publication Modern Health Care. Among women, only Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton ranked higher. This is the second year in a row Ryan has appeared in the top 10—she was No. 8 in 2003. In 2002, Ryan led SSM to become the first health care organization to win the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

An Empire of Caring | Ryan oversees a four-state operation—Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma—that includes 20 acute-care hospitals, three nursing homes and an information center. Offering a full range of health care services, SSM employs more than 23,000 people, works with about 5,000 physicians and in 2003 provided almost $59 million in uncompensated health care.

Making a Difference | Along with continuously improving the quality of care at SSM, Ryan promotes gender and ethnic diversity in her organization as well as preservation of the earth’s resources. Management positions are now split about 50-50 between women and men, and SSM is working to bring more ethnic diversity into those positions as well. And each of SSM’s facilities features a number of ongoing environmentally friendly activities.

Hearing the Call | Ryan’s health care career spans more than 45 years. She started as a nurse but began to hear the call of a broader responsibility, and for that she needed more education. While working as an operating room supervisor in St. Louis, Ryan was advised by a hospital vice president—who was also a Xavier grad—to apply to the University’s Master of Business Administration program.

The View of Time | Ryan has seen lots of changes in health care over the years. But, she says, some things have stayed the same—the dedication, the goodness and the competence of health care workers. “They are the most caring and compassionate people I’ve ever known. People come into health care because they care about people.”

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