Shirley Chater, Ph.D., is a visionary and courageous healthcare leader, whose nursing journey started when she was just a little girl hearing the inspirational words of her father assuring her that she could be anything she wanted to be as long as she helped people.
She began working in a doctor’s office as a teenager, and over the years, her career led her to head up one of the most complex and challenging agencies in the federal government — the U.S. Social Security Administration.
Today, she serves as chair of the National Advisory Committee for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellows program, a position she has held for the past 14 years. The Executive Nurse Fellows program is an advanced leadership program for nurses in senior executive roles in health services, public health and nursing education who aspire to help lead and shape the U.S. healthcare system of the future. So Chater plays an important role in ensuring there are nursing leaders and healthcare leaders for the future.
“Dr. Shirley Chater is a caring, visionary healthcare leader, a woman who has been a true pioneer in nursing and healthcare for our country. Shirley is a leader who is not afraid of challenges and uncertainty, and continues to look for solutions and ways to ensure we have healthcare leaders prepared for the future,” said Sandy Ryan, chief nurse practitioner officer at Take Care Health Systems.
A brief review of Chater’s career, and it’s clear to see why Chater, a true visionary healthcare leader, is this year’s recipient of the Loretta Ford CARE Lifetime Achievement Award.
In addition to her role as chair of the National Advisory Committee, Chater has an expansive career in education, nursing and healthcare policy. Her ability to organize people, ideas and goals led to her appointment as the commissioner of the U.S. Social Security Administration during the Clinton administration, where she was responsible for 65,000 employees and a budget of more than $480 billion.
During her time at the U.S. Social Security Administration, she led strategy and redesign of business processes for more efficient services and, based on her changes, the agency received the highest ranking of success for customer service.
From 1986 to 1993, she was president of Texas Woman’s University, after serving as vice chancellor of Academic Affairs at University of California, San Francisco, from 1977 to 1982 and associate vice chancellor for the preceding four years.
During her time as president of Texas Woman’s University, she responded to the special needs of single mothers at Texas Woman’s University and established a program for housing, day care, counseling and academic support.
In 2000, she was honored by the American Academy of Nursing as a Living Legend. She is the recipient of 12 honorary doctoral degrees and the University of California, San Francisco Medal — the highest honor awarded by the university.
Today, Chater is an independent lecturer and consultant to colleges, universities and other organizations on management and leadership development issues. She holds the position of adjunct professor at the Institute for Health and Aging, School of Nursing, University of California, San Francisco.
“It was an honor to present Dr. Shirley Chater with the Loretta Ford CARE Lifetime Achievement Award. Like Loretta, she is a pioneer in nursing. She is known for her leadership in reshaping the Social Security Administration, but has also shown the world that it takes nursing leadership at the decision-making table to create positive change, and to persuade and motivate others to take action and achieve common goals that make a difference,” said Tine Hansen-Turton, executive director of the Convenient Care Association.