Major General Jimmie O. Keenan
24th Chief, Army Nurse Corps
© Nancy C. Molter
Jimmie Owens Keenan was born on 7 October 1963 to Willa Jean and Billy Owens in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. She became known as one of the “Owens Girls” along with her three sisters: her identical twin Jenny, Jamie, and Beth. She attended local schools and graduated from Murfreesboro High School. Keenan was a distinguished military graduate at Henderson State University and received a commission through the Reserve Officer Training Corps in May 1986.1
In her first assignment, Keenan worked as a staff nurse on an Oncology/Hematology Unit at Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center, but she quickly transitioned to a charge nurse position in the Emergency Department. In 1989, while working night and evening shifts, she completed her Master of Science in Nursing Administration from the Medical College of Georgia. This foundational advanced education influenced every subsequent position in which she served.
Keenan’s subsequent assignments included Nurse Counselor, 2nd Recruiting Brigade, US Army Recruiting Command, and AMEDD Officer Basic Course Nurse Advisor, AMEDD Center and School. Her first overseas assignment was as Chief Nurse, 168th Medical Battalion, Camp Red Cloud, Korea. Her next positions were at Fort Hood, Texas as Head Nurse, Emergency Treatment Section, 21st Combat Support Hospital and Nurse Methods Analyst, Darnall Army Community Hospital. In 1998, she returned overseas as Chief Nurse, Department of Outlying Health Clinics, 67th Combat Support Hospital, Wurzburg, Germany. In July 1999, she deployed as Chief Nurse/Executive Officer, 67th Combat Support Hospital (Forward), to Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo.
Keenan next was selected for an Army Congressional Fellowship in Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison’s office from July 2000 to January 2002. During this time Keenan drafted eleven bills which were presented by the Senator for consideration by the Congress. Eight became law. Most notable was the legislation which authorized medical retirement and benefits for soldiers who served fewer than 20 years but who died in the line of duty. The experience acquired in this position was invaluable when she transitioned into her next assignment as Chief, Congressional Liaison Office in the Office of the Army Surgeon General, which is responsible for responding to congressional and White House inquiries, and drafting written and oral testimony.2
In 2003, LTC Keenan received her first opportunity to command at the battalion level when she was assigned as Garrison Commander, Camp Bullis, Texas. In 2005-2006, she attended the Army War College, where she earned a Master of Strategic Studies degree. She subsequently assumed responsibilities as Deputy Commander for Nursing at Dewitt Army Community Hospital. This assignment was short-lived, as she was tapped in April 2007 to join the newly established Warrior Transition Command (WTC) at the Pentagon in the role of Chief of Staff. As lead Army action officer in this challenging position, she facilitated the establishment of thirty-six Warrior Transition Units. This organization transformed how the Army cares for wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers.3
In June 2009, COL Keenan became Commander, Evans U.S. Army Community Hospital, Ft. Carson, Colorado. At that time, change and turmoil was affecting the installation. She provided oversight of a pilot study that tested, decentralized, and embedded Behavioral Health (BH) teams in the Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs). This experimental program successfully brought a reduction of domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse and mental health stigma on the base. Moreover, communication improved between BH and command teams as noted in positive feedback received from units. As a result of this study, BH personnel are assigned in every BCT across the Army.4
Selected as the 24th Chief of the Army Nurse Corps, Keenan was promoted to Major General in January 2012. MG Keenan and Deputy Corps Chief, COL Vinette Gordon, continued as advocates for nurses and those who care for our beneficiaries. Of the many accomplishments she achieved during her tenure, she identifies two as most crucial. First were initiatives that embraced the tenets of the Patient Caring Touch System and High Reliability Organizations to deliver safe patient-centered care, employing evidence-based changes. She ensured that the Patient Caring Touch System became a sustainable mission through ongoing training. Second, because there was not a cohesive use of advanced nurse practitioners (ANPs), she supported a uniform ANP entry level degree in the military as Doctor of Nursing Practice. Programs at the Uniformed Services University and other civilian universities established this as the standard for this preparation.5
Major General Keenan identified two significant challenges during her time as corps chief. First, too many Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) nursing graduates had been accessioned to active duty during previous years, thus a “best qualified” captains promotion board was required in 2012 to attain mandatory end strength numbers in the pertinent year-groups. Affected officers were offered the opportunity to join the reserves, but an overall reduction in qualified captains ensued. Other mitigating actions for this challenge included negotiating a reduced number of nursing ROTC scholarships and placing nursing ROTC graduates on the same national order of merit list as other ROTC graduates for desiring entry into active duty and branch of choice. Unlike other ROTC graduates, nursing graduates would enter the ANC however, the individual’s order of merit scores helped determine the individual’s component and assignment of choice.6 7 8
The second challenge was addressed when, in 2013, a proposed single Area of Concentration (AOC) combining both critical care and emergency nurses was suspended after receiving feedback from nurses in the two specialties. Keenan directed that the two separate AOCs be retained, but that both specialties be trained jointly at the Army’s Level I trauma center at Brooke Army Medical Center. This allowed for appropriate assignment and nurse satisfaction within the respective nursing specialties, while providing assignment flexibility during deployment conditions.9
During her time as Corps Chief, MG Keenan also held the position of Commanding General, US Army Public Health Command from Jan 2012 to May 2013. In this position she continued the transition of the military healthcare system to a system of health envisioned by MG Horoho, the Army Surgeon General. While serving as Commanding General of the U.S. Army Southern Regional Medical Command, she became the first Army general officer assigned as Director of the San Antonio Military Health System in June 2013. From October 2014 to November 2015, she served as Deputy Commanding General-Operations, Army Medical Command. In this role, she had oversight and execution responsibility for a budget of $12.6 billion and a military, civilian and contract staff of 134,000, delivering health care across five continents to 3.8 million beneficiaries in over 450 facilities.10
MG Keenan earned numerous military and civilian awards and decorations. She a Fellow in both the American College of Healthcare Executives and the American Academy of Nursing.11
In 2016, following military retirement, MG Keenan became Senior Vice President of Enterprise Clinic Operations for WellMed Medical Management, Inc. She assumed oversight of more than 300 senior-focused primary and multi-specialty medical clinics in Texas, southeastern New Mexico and Florida. She is married to COL (Ret.) John Keenan and they have two children, Will and Katie Keenan. Their son Will was commissioned as a 2LT in Infantry in May 2020.12
1 Jimmie Keenan, interviewed by Mark Frye and Kelly Crooks, 6 April 2017, Military City USAradioTM, accessed 10 June 2021, https://www.militarycityusaradio.org/main/major-general-jimmie-keenan-airing-aug-17/; Jimmie Keenan to Nancy Molter, email message with revision attachment, 26 July 2012.
2 Mark Bonica, "Major General Jimmie O. Keenan, Deputy Commanding General, US Army Medical Command," Health Leader Forge, 1 Jul. 2015, Podcast audio, accessed on 3 November 2021, https://anchor.fm/healthleaderforge/episodes/MG-Jimmie-O-Keenan--Deputy-Commanding-General--Operations--US-Army-Medical-Command-egra8f; Jimmie Keenan, interviewed by William Addiston, 24 May 2000, in Würzburg, Germany, transcription, Office of The Surgeon General/Headquarter, U.S. Army Medical Command, Falls Church, Virginia, AMEDD Oral History Program, Army Medical Department Center of History and Heritage, Fort Sam Houston, TX.
3 Mark Bonica, "Major General Jimmie O. Keenan, Deputy Commanding General, US Army Medical Command," Health Leader Forge, interviewed by Mark Bonica, 1 Jul. 2015, Podcast audio, accessed on 3 November 2021, https://anchor.fm/healthleaderforge/episodes/MG-Jimmie-O-Keenan--Deputy-Commanding-General--Operations--US-Army-Medical-Command-egra8f
5 Interview with MG Jimmie Keenan, interviewed by COL Elizabeth Vane, 7 December 2015, in San Antonio, TX, transcription, AMEDD Oral History Program, Army Medical Department Center of History and Heritage, Fort Sam Houston, TX.
7 Nurse Cadet Handbook-University of Memphis, 20 September 2013, accessed on 18 June 2021, https://www.memphis.edu/armyrotc/docs/nurse_cadet_handbook.docx.
8 US Army Cadet Command, Circular 601-19-1, Reserve Officer’s Training Corps Accessions Fiscal Year 2019, Appendix K- Army Nurse Corps. Accessed 21 June 2021.
9 Interview with MG Jimmie Keenan, interviewed by COL Elizabeth Vane, 7 December 2015, in San Antonio, TX, transcription, AMEDD Oral History Program, Army Medical Department Center of History and Heritage, Fort Sam Houston, TX.
10 Jimmie Keenan, Linked In, accessed on 27 July 2021, https://www.linkedin.com/in/jimmie-keenan-537106a/
11 MG Jimmie Keenan Biography, Office of Military Medical History, accessed on 27 July 2021, https://history.amedd.army.mil/ancwebsite/superintendents/keenan.html
; Jimmie Keenan to Nancy Molter, email message with revision attachment, 26 July 2021.
12 Jimmie Keenan to Nancy Molter, email message with revision attachment, 26 July 2021.