Sr. Mary Jean Ryan, President/CEO Emeritus of SSM Health TITLE: Service is more than a kindly act; it has the power to heal

Title: Service is more than a kindly act; it has the power to heal



If you look in the dictionary, you will find multiple definitions and examples of the word “service”; all of them are well-known and well-used in everyday conversations.  It may be work done for others as an occupation or business; it could be military service; a service for eight; and any kind of work done for pay.  However, is it possible that the dictionary has missed something?

This presentation will approach the topic of “service” from the viewpoint that it is more than a kindly act, and that true service is something inherent in the human person that goes beyond a kindly act.  From that viewpoint, this presentation will attempt to leave you with a distinctive, and, perhaps a very different impression of service as something that enhances every human interaction. 

Utilizing examples, this presentation will demonstrate that an act of service, no matter how small or how large, has elegance, decency and dignity, and has the power to heal.



Sr. Mary Jean Ryan is the President/CEO Emeritus of SSM Health with Headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri.  SSM is one of the largest Catholic health care systems in the U.S. with delivery sites in Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin.  SSM includes 23 hospitals, 60 clinics, a pharmacy benefit company, an insurance plan, two nursing homes, comprehensive home care and hospice, and a technology company.  These services are staffed by 11,000 physicians and nearly 39,000 employees.

In 2011, Sr. Mary Jean retired after 25 years as President/CEO of SSM Health Care.  During her 25-year tenure, she emphasized three key themes:  preservation of the earth’s resources; valuing ethnic and gender diversity; and commitment to Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI).  That organizational commitment led to SSM becoming the first health care recipient of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the Nation’s premier award for performance excellence and quality achievement.  Sr. Mary Jean has been privileged to share SSM’s quality journey through presentations to many national and international organizations.

 Sr. Mary Jean has received numerous honors, including the Distinguished Service Award (2010), the highest honor given by the Missouri Hospital Association; the Juran Medal from the American Society for Quality (ASQ); the C. Jackson Grayson Distinguished Quality Pioneer Medal (2009) from APQC; and the Award of Honor presented by the American Hospital Association.  She was elected as an Academician to the International Academy for Quality (IAQ) in 2008, and served as it’s Chair from 2012 to 2014.  In 2015, she was elected to the rank of Honorary Member of IAQ.  In 2011, she received the Distinguished Service Award from ASQ and in 2015, she became the first woman in its 26-year history, to be elected as an Honorary Member of ASQ.   Sr. Mary Jean has been named one of the 25 Most Influential Women in Business in St. Louis, and was named one of the most powerful people in Health Care by Modern Health Care Magazine for eight years.  In 2014, the Baldrige Foundation named Sr. Mary Jean as the second recipient of the Harry S. Hertz Leadership Award (Harry being the first recipient)

In 2018, two years after retiring for the second time as Chair of the Corporate, and Regional and Divisional Boards of SSM, Sr. Mary Jean was inducted into to the Healthcare Hall of Fame sponsored by Modern Healthcare Magazine.  That same year, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Catholic Hospital Association of the U.S.

Sr. Mary Jean has received Honorary Doctorates in Humane Letters from Webster University in 1994, the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and Lindenwood University in 2003, St. Bonaventure University (Allegany, NY) in 2012, and in Public Service from St. Louis University in 2016.

She received a Masters Degree in Hospital and Health Administration from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.  She is proud to be a nurse and a Franciscan Sister of Mary for 60 years.