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  • Writer's picturePaul DeChant MD, MBA

Dr. Sharon Kiely: A New CWO at the Beginning of the Pandemic

Are you a Chief Wellness Officer (CWO) or aspire to become one? If so, you will not want to miss the CWO panel at the upcoming Healthcare Burnout Symposium in San Francisco on January 25th.

Leading off the panel is Sharon C. Kiely, MD, MPM, FACP, Chief Wellness Officer at Hartford Healthcare (HHC), a 9-hospital, 24,000-employee health system serving 161 towns and cities in central Connecticut.

A graduate of Georgetown University both undergrad and medical school, Dr. Kiely is a board-certified internist whose career includes a year as a White House Fellow, 11 years as a physician leader in the Allegheny Health System, and 9 years as a VP and SVP at Stamford Health prior to joining HHC.

Within four months of starting as Chief Wellness Officer at HHC in 2019, COVID struck. She suddenly had to pivot from her initial plan of steadily growing the service, to launching all at once in order to support all colleagues across the system. She likens the challenge of the experience to “building the plane while you are flying it”.

At the conference, Dr. Kiely is looking forward to sharing her experience and recommendations on:

  • How to activate a “kitchen cabinet” – a team that fosters collaboration among all key wellbeing stakeholders including VPs of patient experience, physician and staff engagement, human resources, DEI belonging, marketing and communications. In their monthly meetings this group floats problems with each other to ensure they are aligning and collaborating, avoiding conflicting activities or communications.

  • Focusing on what leaders need at all levels. Dr. Kiely has worked to demystify the language of wellbeing for operational and support service leaders, helping them to incorporate well-being language, tools and competencies into standard work and the organizations operating model.

  • Doing a pilot with a diverse group of leaders, training them in resiliency skills such as psychological first aid. She has been able to demonstrate that stress decompression in the units of leaders with that training has improved, despite overall worsening of decompression in other units and other entities, reinforcing the value of spreading resiliency skill training to all leaders.

  • Developing a consultative function in the wellbeing office, consulting with department and unit leaders to learn their unique issues. This includes working directly with front-line clinicians, translating their needs to help the local leader tailor support to their teams. This has resulted in decreased turnover in those units, a valuable change at a time when clinicians are leaving employers and/or their professions at accelerated rates.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn, not only from the panel of excellent CWOs, but also from the broad array of leading international experts on all aspects of burnout and wellbeing.

You can learn more about the conference here. You can also reach me directly at



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