Interview with Interim CIO Stephanie Reel

Following the departure of former CIO Chris Kielt in early October, Stephanie L. Reel, has been appointed interim chief information officer for Washington University in St. Louis. According to Chancellor Andrew. D. Martin, Reel will serve in the role while the university conducts a national search for a permanent successor. The search will begin in 2021. In the course of welcoming her to the University, Stephanie was interviewed about her career, future goals, and her thoughts about Washington University, and the attributes that make our University such a unique and special organization.

Prior to her role as Interim CIO at Washington University, Reel held a rich and fulfilling 30-year role as CIO for all divisions of Johns Hopkins University and for all affiliates and entities of the Johns Hopkins Health System. Reel emphasized that her time with the University and Health System was a wonderful and enriching experience that offered her the opportunity to meet and connect with some of the smartest people in the world. Stephanie expressed that one of her greatest joys was being able to reinvent herself through her various roles during her time at Johns Hopkins. She was originally appointed as the CIO for the Health System. After about ten years, she was offered the opportunity to serve as the Vice-Provost for Information Technology for the University as well. This opportunity afforded her the chance to learn and do more, bring people together with a focus on innovation and the wise use of scarce resources, while meeting challenges across these two different legal entities.

When asked what attracted her to Washington University after all her time with Johns Hopkins, Stephanie shared that there were several contributing factors. She cited that Steve Lipstein, who had once been her mentor at Johns Hopkins, had accepted a position as President of BJC Health in 1999.  After becoming president, Steve invited Stephanie to St. Louis to share her thoughts as to how IT solutions can be leveraged across a large and sophisticated health system. In spite of the fact that the visit was a brief one, Stephanie immediately found a connection with St. Louis, and with BJC Health and Washington University. 

Several years later, Stephanie’s brother—a graduate of Hopkins, Harvard and MIT—was recruited to WUSM as a member of the faculty. Stephanie visited with her brother often, and again, felt a special connection to Washington University. These unique connections to the University afforded her the opportunity to experience the culture and environment of Washington University in an intimate way, and she quickly found herself holding a warm spot in her heart for the Washington University community.

However, while her history with Washington University was part of the draw, Reel detailed that more recently, her conversations with Dr. Paul Scheel, Dean David Perlmutter, Rick Stanton, and Hank Webber were a large part of her attachment to the University and its spirit. They had recently asked if she would perform an assessment of our IT services to see if she could impart any lessons she had learned from her time at Johns Hopkins. Stephanie was happy to do so.

And then, during our Huron-led assessment, Stephanie was asked to serve as a liaison between Huron and the University, leveraging her experience as the Hopkins CIO. Once again, Stephanie found the environment to be inspirational and energizing. While working with Huron, she found the team to be respectful, knowledgeable, experienced and able to impart important insight and thoughtful feedback. Coupled with the guidance Stephanie received from Washington University’s Chancellor Andrew Martin and Provost Beverly Wendland, she felt exceptionally welcomed on a personal and professional level.

“This is a rare opportunity and it means a lot to be able to learn about our strategic imperatives, goals, opportunities and challenges are, while being introduced to lovely people and important resources” Stephanie commented. “It all feels exceptional to me, and I appreciate the generosity of the people with whom I have met.  It has given me an incredible advantage in understanding what really matters at WashU, and that’s not always the case when someone starts a new role.”

Digging deeper and discussing what goals she has during her time as Interim CIO, Stephanie stated that one of her most important goals was a simple one: enhance our teamwork. While Reel can see that there is already an incredible degree of teamwork at WashU, she believes there is untapped potential within WashU, and a clear opportunity to accomplish more if we work together. Stephanie shared a recent example.

“On Wednesday we became aware of an aggressive ransomware attack targeting hospitals across the country. Within just a few hours, Joe Susai (WUSM Chief Information Security Officer), Chris Shull (Interim Chief Information Security Officer), and Kevin Hardcastle were working together with our colleagues at BJC to ensure we were doing everything possible to protect our patients and our data assets. It was important to be able to share this good news with Andrew Martin, Monica Allen, and Dr. Scheel.”

Other goals that are important to Stephanie include ensuring that MyDay goes live successfully on July 1, 2021. Along with other members of the IT team and our colleagues from Huron, Stephanie will also focus on the design and development of an IT support model that works for the University and for each school, while developing a sustainable IT strategic framework and funding model.

“We need a support model that allows us to meet the needs of the School of Medicine while not adversely impacting the rest of the University or creating an unacceptable funding model; the goal is to focus on being better together while still recognizing our differences and unique needs,” Stephanie explained before moving on to speak on IT sustainability. “We need to know what matters most, not necessarily for next five to ten years, but for the near term future, determining where our time, energy, and funding should be invested.”

When asked if she had any closing thoughts she’d like to share with IT@WashU, Stephanie had this to say:

“We have important work to do and sometimes that work seems nearly impossible, but there are a few things we can do to ensure success: work hard, tell the truth, do what you say you will do, always assume positive intent, and be kind to one another.”