Kelley Kaiser, ’93, MPH ’99, serves as senior vice president – chief administrative officer for Samaritan Health Services, a five-hospital, 80-clinic integrated delivery system that operates two insurance companies in the Mid-Willamette Valley.
She earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees – from what is now the College of Health – to pursue her goal of becoming a health care administrator. She works to ensure that Samaritan is aligned in its focus on serving people in Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties, with a focus on the underserved. She also serves on the OSU Alumni Association Board.
What was your career progression, and what do you most enjoy about what you do?
After my undergrad, I worked in a private practice physician clinic in Eugene doing administrative work. I really enjoyed working with the doctors and gained an appreciation of the challenges and joys of medicine.
After three years, I was ready to try something new and saw an ad for a position that wanted someone with a degree in health care administration. This was not a very common degree, so I was curious about the opportunity.
I applied for the job, which was at Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis. It turned out that Good Sam was getting into the Medicaid managed care business and needed someone to do the provider contracting on behalf of the plan. Given that this was something I was involved with at my current job, I thought it would be a great opportunity. I was also very interested in the concept of Medicaid managed care and ensuring that the underserved were able to get the care they needed. Supporting the underserved has always been a passion of mine and supports my public health perspective. I took this job and progressed through the organization.
After several different jobs within Samaritan, and 28 years, I am in my current position and really enjoy my role. I focus on ways that we as an integrated delivery system can ensure we are aligned whenever possible.
My experience in all aspects of health care delivery – hospital, physicians and health plans – gives me a broad perspective and foundation to do my job. I am passionate about the mission we have, and I am grateful that I get to work with the people at Samaritan daily to deliver the best care we can to our communities.
What inspired you to choose your career path in health care administration?
As an undergrad at OSU, I was in the College of Business. My mom who was a Certified Nurse Midwife working at Sacred Heart in Eugene, had just delivered the baby of a professor in the health care administration program at OSU.
Having been around health care my whole life but knowing that I didn’t want to be a clinician, I decided to investigate what health care administration was all about.
After meeting with advisors and understanding the program, I transferred into the health care administration (Editor’s note: now health management and policy) program at the start of my junior year. The program offered many of the same business classes I was taking but with a health care bent. Health care accounting, health care law, etc. This really intrigued me.
Tell us about your time at Oregon State. Is there someone who helped you be successful?
As an undergraduate, I really enjoyed my time at Oregon State. Dr. Leonard Friedman joined the department my senior year, and he was inspirational and engaging in teaching us about the complexities of health care.
In 1997, I decided to go back to school and get my master’s degree at OSU. I was working full time and decided I needed to get an MBA. After taking one class on how to make widgets in Germany, I realized I was in the wrong spot. So, I wandered over to Waldo and talked to Dr. Friedman and once again transferred my degree, this time to public health.
Were you involved in any organizations or clubs when on campus?
I was in the Greek system at Oregon State as an undergrad. I was the representative for our sorority with the university and I enjoyed being the liaison and working toward aligned goals.
If you could deliver a message to future students, what would you say?
If you can, try and work in a place that feeds your personal values and passions, as well as your skill set. Being able to do both makes it more fulfilling.