Deborah Keel

Written by Cheryl Mills

IMG_9_1There is little doubt that Deborah Keel, CEO of North Fulton Hospital since 2009, is a very successful woman. But savvy? That is an idea she is still getting used to.

“If I’m savvy,” Keel said, “well, that’s interesting. My daughters think it’s hysterical.” Keel and her husband Patrick have three daughters and four grandchildren.

Listening to her tell the story about her path to success, it becomes clear that Keel is an extraordinarily savvy woman. She started her healthcare career working in the public relations department of a hospital, and attributes her trajectory from there to luck, opportunity and great mentors.

“Luck and opportunity have to intersect somewhere, and I was just at the right place at the right time,” Keel said. “I was one of those young, naïve people who raised my hand for every project.” With a bachelor’s degree in journalism and no medical background, she wrote medi- cal terms down phonetically and asked the nurses what they meant. Years later, she returned to school to earn a Masters of Public Health.

Besides the ever-patient nurses, she said her first CEO was a real advocate for her. Keel feels fortunate to have had mentors early in her career who wanted to teach her the business. She’s been with Tenet Healthcare since 1995, as CEO of hospitals in Louisiana and California and VP of operations for the California region before landing in Georgia, where she and Patrick plan to stay. One of Keel’s favorite things about her job is continuing the mentoring tradition of those who came before her.

“Hopefully there will be two or three young, upcoming administrators out there whose lives I’ve touched and will be better for it,” she said.

As for those three daughters who chuckle at the idea of their mother being savvy, Keel said, “I think my girls have seen that there is no glass ceiling if you don’t want there to be a glass ceiling.”

Keel is wearing Ming Wang paneled striped jacket in chianti/black with black “Demi” sheath dress; Shane Co. 14k white gold three-stone diamond earrings, 14k white gold three- stone diamond ring, 14k white gold diamond necklace, 14k gold diamond tennis bracelet, and 14k gold diamond ring.