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Seely chosen as a 2018 YWCA Woman of Achievement

Photo of 2018 Women of Achievement
Elizabeth Seely pictured above (center) with the 2018 Women of Achievement.

Congratulations to Elizabeth Seely, chief administrative officer – hospital division, OSU Wexner Medical Center, for being selected as a 2018 YWCA Woman of Achievement. This award, which has honored central Ohio women for more than 30 years, is granted to nominees who demonstrate a deep commitment to breaking down barriers and creating opportunities for women.

With more than 25 years as a leader in health care administration for the Ohio State Health System, Elizabeth has extensive experience and a track record of outstanding leadership that has led to considerable progress in improving medical service delivery and patient satisfaction.

In addition to her accomplishments at Ohio State, Seely is also active in community engagement, serving as a founding board member of Partners Achieving Community Transformation, devoting significant time as a volunteer to the Girl Scouts of Central Ohio, and participating as an active member of Women for Economic and Leadership Development, United Way Women’s Leadership Council, and The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women’s Circle of Red.

The Women's Place asked Seely the following questions to learn how she achieved her leadership role at the university and what advice she has for other women who are working to advance.

Q. Which personal/career accomplishments are you most proud of, and why?

A. Most meaningful to me is the opportunity I had to lead University Hospital East from 2007 – 2017. I am incredibly proud of the dedicated faculty and staff at that hospital who provide outstanding care every day not only to individuals in the immediate community, but also to patients from almost every county in Ohio.

I'm grateful for the support of the medical center and university leadership who enabled me to pursue a plan of growth and new programs at the hospital to meet community needs, including the acquisition of the CarePoint East ambulatory facility, the expansion of clinical programs such as cardiac interventions, limb preservation, primary stroke center certification, and robotic surgery in orthopedics and general surgery. It was so rewarding to work at an OSU location which makes such a tremendous impact in the community.

Being involved in the formation and leadership of PACT (Partners Achieving Community Transformation), a collaborative between the university, city of Columbus, and the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority to improve housing, education, job opportunities, and health on the Near East Side has been some of the most inspirational and fulfilling work of my entire career. At the heart of any meaningful accomplishment for me personally is the sense of having made a positive difference — whether in the life of an individual person, a team, an organization, or a whole community.

Q. Aside from the obvious hard work and dedication, is there anything else you attribute your career success at Ohio State to?

A. Yes, I have been very fortunate to have had a series of outstanding leaders as bosses and mentors who have given me opportunities to learn and grow and who have taken an active interest in my career. Larry Anstine, Kamilla Sigafoos, Peter Geier, and now David McQuaid have all been incredibly supportive and directly provided new assignments and challenges.

I have also benefited from the mentorship and advice of colleagues and friends at work, particularly Gail Marsh, who started the Women’s Leadership Connection at the medical center for that very purpose. My involvement in organizations outside of Ohio State, including my church, Girl Scouts, and Young Presidents Organization helps me keep a broader perspective and provides an outlet when work life becomes a little intense.

Finally, I could not have had this career success without my husband Collin, who keeps our family balance intact. He stayed home for seven years while our three children (including twins) were younger, enabling me to really focus and fulfill the commitments of my position at University Hospital East.

Q. What does it mean to you to be a YWCA Woman of Achievement?

A. It is an incredible and humbling honor to be selected for this recognition. It was an honor just to be nominated and considered, let alone to be selected. There are a tremendous number of extremely talented women leaders all across the university, so I really see myself as representing just one of many deserving colleagues.

It is a very special opportunity to meet and interact with other remarkable women in Columbus, for which I am very grateful. I also think this honor carries with it a responsibility to continue to contribute to the community, serve as a mentor and role model for the next generation of women leaders, and to help people succeed in whatever way is important to them.

Q. What advice would you give to other women looking to advance their careers at Ohio State?

A. First of all, do the work — whatever your work is — to the very best of your ability. My personal philosophy is that if something is worth doing, then it is worth doing well — no matter how small or insignificant it might seem or whether you think anyone is "watching" or not.

Second, let others (including your boss) know that you are interested in advancing. Ask to be involved in a project or committee outside your normal scope or take on a leadership or committee role for an initiative within your area. If you see a problem or a need, offer to work on a solution and then follow through on implementation.

Consider a "lateral" move that builds your skill set or provides different experiences. Take advantage of the university's benefits to further your education or challenge yourself to become proficient in a new skill.

However, don't forget that "emotional intelligence" skills are as (if not more) important than technical skills, so don't neglect to develop your communication, problem-solving, and relationship building competencies.

Ask for honest feedback from a trusted friend, colleague, or supervisor about how you could be even more effective.

Finally, be open to change and new opportunities that at first may not seem all that attractive. A career is not a linear path — it often may resemble spaghetti, so a healthy dose of patience and persistence is often required.

Q. How can we empower women to seek leadership roles at the university?

A. This question could be approached from a variety of angles. From a positive perspective, we do have successful women in positions of leadership at Ohio State. So one of the things we can do is understand why they sought that role, what relevant factors lead to them obtaining that role, and then replicate what are determined to be critical success factors. I'll call that the "glass is half-full approach."

For me, my parents were a significant influence in encouraging me to take a leadership path even as a teenager and my experiences in Girl Scouting further developed an early interest in leadership. So as a society, I think we have work to do in encouraging women who aspire to leadership roles and helping them to feel confident in that pursuit.

At the university specifically, we should continue to develop an environment conducive to the pursuit of leadership opportunities, including both formal and informal professional development and mentorship, along with systems that support young families with children, in particular access to high quality child care.

Finally, the data collection about women in leadership roles and sharing of results that The Women’s Place facilitates is critical to understanding where we still have gaps, so that actions can be undertaken to understand and address those gaps.

Q. What would you like to see for the future of women at Ohio State?

A. It's not just about the numbers, although I would like to see women represented in proportion at all levels of the organization and in all positions across every department and college. It's really about all people (including women) having the opportunity to achieve their full potential. It's about having the best possible team and a diversity of thought and perspective. It's about bosses who care, meaningful work, and an organization that supports the importance of individuals and families with its systems and culture.

I am exceptionally grateful for the career I've been able to have at Ohio State and have every confidence that the future for women here will continue to be even brighter!