Karen Davis Tapped as Chief Nursing Executive

Mar. 14, 2018
Succeeds Longtime Nursing Executive Patricia Witzel, Set to Retire in June
Karen Davis

Karen K. Davis, PhD, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, a nursing leader with 30 years of experience at Johns Hopkins Health System, has been selected as Associate Vice President and Chief Nursing Executive (CNE) with nursing oversight responsibilities for Strong Memorial Hospital, Highland Hospital, and affiliated UR Medicine hospitals. For each hospital, Davis will work with the respective nursing leaders and CEOs to establish consistent and outstanding nursing practice, announced Steven I. Goldstein, President and CEO of Strong Memorial and Highland hospitals.

Davis will follow in the footsteps of current Chief Nursing Officer Patricia Witzel, MS, who established a vibrant nursing practice during her 43-year tenure at Strong Memorial and will retire June 30. 

“In reviewing potential candidates, it was important to me that my successor would be someone who would further nursing excellence at URMC,” Witzel said.“Karen’s experience at a large academic medical center, coupled with a successful management track record, makes her well suited to continue to build on our legacy of a professional practice environment aimed at delivering excellent, compassionate care to patients and families.”

“I’m very excited to welcome Karen as our new chief nursing executive,” said Goldstein. “She’s an accomplished clinician with a depth of experience within large academic medical center and community hospital settings. She has the experience, skill, and vision that will be needed as our network grows and embraces the principles of population health."

Davis was selected after a five-month search process, which was chaired by URMC Vice President and Dean of the UR School of Nursing Kathy Rideout, EdD, PPCNP-BC, FNAP.  A nurse manager and staff nurse joined 10 other faculty and staff to make the final selection.

As CNE, Davis will oversee the largest single department at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), providing leadership for more than 3,500 nurses and patient technicians at Strong, an 846-bed teaching hospital which also includes the Wilmot Cancer Center and Golisano Children’s Hospital, and Highland, a 260-bed community hospital.

She will also be appointed assistant dean for clinical practice at the University of Rochester School of Nursing. Davis will begin her new roles on June 1. 

“This is a great opportunity to be a part of a growing system that has been very proactive with its relationships and its vision for the future,” said Davis, who is currently the vice president of nursing and chief nursing officer (CNO) for Howard County General Hospital in Columbia, Maryland.

“After 30 years, for me to move on, it had to be the best place. It had to have an amazing nursing school, a strong system, great leaders, and Magnet designation. Rochester hit all of the items on my list.”

Davis joined the Johns Hopkins Health System in 1989 as a nurse on the Neuro Critical Care Unit and served in a variety of roles in subsequent years, including nurse manager and director of medical and radiology nursing. She was also a faculty associate at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing for the past 20 years. In 2014, she was named CNO at Howard County General Hospital, a Johns Hopkins Health System affiliate, where she led a staff of more than 1,200 nurses and techs to significant improvement in patient care.

“Karen was truly an exceptional candidate. I’m thrilled that she will be joining us,” Rideout said. “Her background in the academic side of health care, as well as her previous work as the CNO of a community hospital, gives her a unique perspective and great appreciation for both settings.”

Throughout her tenure at Johns Hopkins, Davis has focused on improving the patient experience. She was instrumental in designing and implementing throughput initiatives to help alleviate crowding in the Emergency Department and workflow throughout the hospital, and she has led the effort to reduce readmissions, a benefit for both patients and the hospital’s finances. She has been actively involved in the organization’s journey toward systemization.

An upstate New York native, Davis earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Towson University and her master’s and PhD in nursing from Johns Hopkins. She is a speaker and published author in heart failure self-care, cognitive impairment, and leadership development, and is board-certified as an Advanced Nurse Executive.

About UR Medicine

UR Medicine is the University of Rochester’s health care network. It includes the 838-bed Strong Memorial Hospital and its inpatient and outpatient components such as Golisano Children’s Hospital, Wilmot Cancer Center, and Flaum Eye Institute, as well as the University of Rochester Medical Faculty Group, Highland Hospital, Jones Memorial Health, Noyes Health, Thompson Health, Eastman Dental, The Highlands at Brighton, The Highlands Living Center, Visiting Nurse Service, and a range of clinical programs serving patients across western New York. Visit