UW News

October 16, 2008

Eileen Whalen takes the helm of Harborview Medical Center

It was a busy first week for Eileen Whalen, who began her new job as Harborview’s executive director Monday, Oct. 6. In keeping with her priority of getting to know staff personally, Whalen spent a great deal of time in meetings and walkarounds. She also took time to talk about her family and share some first impressions and goals.

Q: What are your first impressions of Harborview?

A: Harborview is legendary for its research, teaching and community service missions. I’m humbled and honored to have the opportunity to lead this vital work as part of UW Medicine. We have an outstanding executive team, a dedicated board of trustees and a truly exemplary staff.

Q: What are your goals for your first six months?

A: I will be listening and learning to understand Harborview’s culture. I will also be deepening my understanding of our legislative agenda and establishing relationships with state leaders in Olympia.

Q: What are some of the major challenges that you expect to tackle?

A: Reaching the next level in terms of patient safety and quality is of utmost importance. Another great challenge, as a safety net hospital, is to meet the needs of the community for accessible and high-quality care, especially in light of our census and the overwhelming demands on our resources. I will also focus on providing leadership and infrastructure support for our education and research missions.

Q: How will you communicate with staff and physicians?

A: My goal is to be very visible. I maintain an open-door policy and look forward to meeting staff on walkarounds and at departmental meetings. I will have a column in STAT and will set up a town hall type of forum for direct communication.

Q: How does your family feel about relocating to Seattle?

A: In addition to being a health care consultant, my husband, Bob, will return to Arizona monthly to manage our 13,000-acre cattle ranch. In Seattle, we are both excited by the combination of an urban environment in close proximity to the outdoors. Our recreational plans include skiing, hiking, bicycle riding and walking about town. Since we love to cook and entertain, we are having a field day at the Pike Place Market.

Our son, Alex, graduated last spring from the University of Arizona with a degree in history and political science. He is staying in Arizona and plans to attend nursing school next spring.

Q: Will you miss the Arizona sun?

A: After growing up in Washington, D.C., and going to college in Buffalo, I’m used to cold, damp weather. Our cattle ranch can also provide an occasional sun break!

This article originally appeared in STAT, a publication for the staff of Harborview Medical Center.