News / Periop Café

The Responsibility of Having a Seat at the Table with Keeli Stith

August 9, 2022


The Responsibility of Having a Seat at the Table with Keeli Stith

Supporting and advancing the careers of Directors of Surgical Services is at the heart of what we do at Whitman Partners. A Whitman Partners Success Story highlights individuals from our community who share how Whitman Partners has given their careers a boost. This can be through a placement or an expansion of their professional network. We foster meaningful relationships with our candidates and clients that survive post-transaction; that means we’re in it for the long haul, ready to be of service again when the need arises. This month we highlight Keeli Stith’s story of success.

Keeli Stith is the Associate Director of Perioperative and Procedural Clinical Services for The Ohio State University (tOSU) Wexner Medical Center. When she first crossed paths with Whitman Partners, she was not in the market for a job. One of our Client Partners, Brian Ulasewicz, helped her fill a nurse manager position. Impressed with the quality of her leadership, he later nominated her as one of Whitman Partner’s BIPOC Perioperative Leaders to Know, one of the firms recognition awards.

Soon after, she was invited to be a part of a panel moderated by Whitman Partners CEO Josiah Whitman, “The Inclusive OR: Roles and Goals for Creating a Diverse Team,” at the 2021 OR Manager Conference in Chicago. Alongside Stith, other perioperative leaders included Brian Dawson, Dr. Katie Boston-Leary, Dr. Edna Gilliam, and James Fly. Stith said that while she was excited to be on the panel, she had no big expectations for the experience. 

“I was excited to be on the panel, but I didn’t have huge expectations for any career momentum,” Stith says. “I looked at it as an opportunity to talk with my peers. But when I got there and saw what these other leaders brought to the table, it made me feel like, ok, I deserve to have a seat at this table, and I, too, am a great leader. Being able to bond with them at dinner the evening before was a gift because we really connected and were able to be authentic on stage the next day.” 

She also did not expect the gift to keep on giving: she left the panel with a brighter energy to find ways to continue this dialogue in her organization, and people took notice. Dr. Kay Ball and Dr. Donna Doyle attended Whitman’s panel at the OR Manager Conference. They approached Stith about speaking on diversity at the American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses (ASPAN) and Ohio PeriAnesthesia Nurses Association (OPANA) annual conference at tOSU. 

“I thought about how I would do the talk, and I liked the notion of storytelling,” Stith says. “That platform that Josiah set sharing your stories and experiences is far more impactful than a PowerPoint when you have to, for instance, define what a microaggression is in healthcare. So I began with my family, talking about my grandmother, whose final grade in school was 5th. I was really energized by connecting with people by telling my story.” 

Stith then received another opportunity: sharing her experiences in a book published by the Columbus, OH Black Nurses Association, The Voices of Black Nurses: Our Challenges and Triumphs During the COVID-19 Pandemic, which was released in May. She’s also brainstorming with one of her co-panelists, Gilliam, on creating a presentation together. Their vision includes possible speaking engagements across the country and creating a brand. 

“We want to create a presentation around the subjects of diversity, incivility, and bullying, and threading those concepts together,” Stith says.  

Another important area to Stith is passing on what she knows to the next generation of nurses by mentoring students of color at tOSU’s College of Nursing. She wants to share what she has learned as a leader, a Black woman, and a Black woman in nursing. 

“I want to help them navigate the healthcare industry and be successful in their careers.”

“I want to help them navigate the healthcare industry and be successful in their careers,” Stith says. “It’s that concept of giving back and sharing knowledge when you can. That’s what I like about Whitman Partners. Yes, you’re a recruiting firm, but you also do all these other great things.” 

If you have a Whitman Partners Success Story that you want to share and be featured in this column, email Carisa Brewster at