Inspired to become a nurse by her great-aunt, Mary O’Leary set out to make her own mark on the industry. She started by becoming a staff nurse in the department of psychiatry at Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital in 1963, and was promoted to coordinator of in-patient child psychiatry a year later. Ms. O’Leary’s passion and drive caught the attention of her superiors and colleagues, which spurred her rapid advancement through the industry. Over the next few decades, she thrived in roles like assistant head nurse at the Veterans Research Hospital, instructor in the Cooperative Health Occupations Assistants Program of the Chicago Board of Education, director of nursing education, evaluation, and research at the Michael Reese Hospital and Medical Center, director of psychiatric services at the Michael Reese Hospital and Medical Center, vice president of clinical services at Grant Hospital, and patient care director at the Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. Other notable positions include chief nursing officer at St. Helena Hospital and patient advocate at Good Medicine Consult and Advocacy. She currently lends her expertise as a patient advocate in St. Helena, California, and a consultant with the Ascellon Corporation in Landover, Maryland.
Through Ms. O’Leary’s long and illustrious career, one highlight stands out, however. While she was with the Chicago Board of Education, she was asked to participate in a government-funded program for child-parent education centers. The idea was to take young children into classrooms with a teacher and a teacher’s aide while their mothers learned life skills like cooking, sewing, and first aid in the Parent Mobile. Ms. O’Leary dedicated her life to these families, and found it amazing to see how both the kids and parents grew. She took what she learned from the experience to the St. Luke’s Presbyterian Hospital Pediatric Clinic, where she worked with the clinic’s nurse manager to provide mothers with the help they needed for their children. While the children were in school, the mothers went to the medical clinic or the OB/GYN clinic for care. Ms. O’Leary took it a step further when she convinced the dean at the School of Dentistry at Northwestern University to send dental hygiene students to visit the children in the program and teach them how to care for their teeth properly. The whole thing was very meaningful to her.
To prepare for her endeavors, Ms. O’Leary earned a master’s degree in health professions education from the University of Illinois Medical Center in the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System and a Bachelor of Science in nursing from Villanova University. She also completed coursework at the National College of Education and George Williams College. Ms. O’Leary furthered her professional standing by affiliating with organizations like the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE), the National League for Nursing, and the Illinois Society of Nursing Service Administrators. Additionally, she served as a member of the program committee of the Midwest Alliance of Nursing and as the chair of the program committee of the Illinois League of Nursing.
When Ms. O’Leary has spare time, she enjoys pursuing interests like interior decorating, rock climbing, art, music, travel, tennis, and bocce ball. She also volunteers at the Cameo Movie Theater in St. Helena, which offers varying programs for students, and on the Honoring Choices Napa Valley Board, which helps other health care professionals and lay people complete their Advance Care Directives.