A Look at a Leader: Marissa Kiefer
“I view things from the patient and family perspective because I’ve been there and often still am,” she explains.
To make an impact, people say leaders need to possess passion and experience. Marissa Kiefer is a model on all counts. Indeed, as the executive director of maternity and newborn health at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, Kiefer’s role requires her to create, embrace and initiate change. It’s a job that requires her to wear a multitude of hats—hats many say she wears well.
Growing up in Zionsville, Indiana, Kiefer admits she always had an interest in health care. “I wanted to be a pediatrician,” she recalls. An aversion to blood, however, led Kiefer to pursue a degree in health care administration at Indiana University. “My senior year at IU, I interned at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C., working with their marketing and public relations team,” she says.
Inspired by the team’s tactics and the allure of Washington, D.C., Kiefer returned as a full-time staffer after graduation. “Children’s National Medical Center is a freestanding hospital and it was very integrated. I was consistently working on different projects throughout the hospital, so I was able to view the full scope of the hospital. It provided me with great professional insights.”
Kiefer stayed on the marketing side for three years before she got to fuel her passion for operations. “I had the opportunity to move into a role on the operational side of the hospital. So, I started working for their center for heart, lung and kidney disease.” At the same time, she decided to return to school, taking night courses to achieve a master’s degree in health services administration from The George Washington University.
Post-graduation, Kiefer forged ahead, eager to expand her skills. It was shortly after, however, that she received a call from the then chief operating officer at IU Medical Group Specialty Care, the organization that became Indiana University Health Physicians. “They were hiring for a role for their expanding multispecialty practice operations,” she says. “It was an opportunity I really wanted to explore.” Though that hire was 11 years ago, Kiefer says she couldn’t be happier about that choice today. “It was an opportunity to make an impact in healthcare in Indiana and return home,” she recalls. Kiefer stayed on for 10 years, eventually rising to become their executive director, until June 2015 when she accepted her current role at Riley.
Challenges can change a person, says Kiefer, and the new perspectives they provide can be powerful. “Six years ago, I found out that the baby I was pregnant with had Down syndrome,” Kiefer recalls. Suddenly, the mother of three says, her healthcare background and connections within the IU Health system felt so beneficial. “I’m a planner and I had just been diagnosed with a high risk pregnancy, so I wanted to know what to plan for,” she recalls. “But, I soon found that I had to be the one to personally request consults and make connections.” Kiefer quickly assembled a medical team to assist her and ultimately delivered at Riley at IU Health North. Today, she’s says she’s a proud Riley mom to her nearly 6 year old daughter.
Still, she says, those times left an imprint—circumstances she resolved to improve when she accepted her current role at Riley. “I wanted to make things better for the moms who came after me.” One example: Kiefer cites the hospital’s multi-disciplinary fetal care conferences, where providers come together to collaborate on complex care plans and learn. “And that’s just one piece as we grow Riley Maternity and Newborn Health moving forward,” she explains. “We have the ability to make an amazing impact.”
Kiefer’s own experiences as a mother, however, are never far from her thoughts. They are her lens and a tool she uses to champion for others. “I view things from the patient and family perspective because I’ve been there and often still am,” she explains. “I love being able to have a seat at the executive table and offer input. I’m appreciative that I get to be the one who says I’ve been there and this is why that strategy may or may not work. I get to advocate and offer feedback on topics that are so personal to me and that’s incredibly rewarding.”
-- By Sarah Burns