As commander of the Evans U.S. Army Community Hospital at Fort Carson, Col. Jimmie Keenan is responsible for the hospital and clinics that meet the medical needs of 66,107 soldiers and their family members.
She’s had more than a dozen varied positions in her Army career that have prepared her well for this big job. In 1999, she was the chief nurse in the first Army hospital in Kosovo during that conflict. “It was a humbling experience taking care of our soldiers, NATO troops as well as the local nationals,” she says. “We were in an austere environment providing state-of-the-art medical care and surgical care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
After that assignment, Keenan had a much different experience in the halls of Congress as an Army Congressional Fellow, working with Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson. She provided her military and medical prospective on legislative and constituent issues, and was there on Sept. 11 to see “Congress … work to support our military and their family members.”
Another challenging assignment was to help reform care of wounded, ill and injured service members and their families. News reports in 2007 detailed serious problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. She was the chief of staff for the Army Medical Action Plan, formed to upgrade the system of care and transition for soldiers and their families. “I found this to be humbling and heart wrenching, one of the most rewarding positions in my 25 years in the Army,” she says.
Keenan misses direct patient care, but stays connected by visiting with staff and patients. “I truly believe in leadership by walking around,” she says. “You have to be approachable and honest with your staff and soldiers.”
She earned a nursing degree from Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, Ark., entered the Army as a nurse and then received a masters in nursing administration from the Medical College of Georgia, Augusta. She also has a master’s in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College, Carlisle, Pa.
“I saw a movie about women at West Point when I was a freshman in high school and that started my goal to be a military officer and pursue a career in military medicine,” she says.