For Olevia Pitts, M.D. ’86, becoming Research Medical Center’s chief medical officer was a logical next step in the city she loves.
“I’ve always practiced in the Kansas City area,” Pitts said in an interview after her whirlwind first week at her new post. “And it’s an honor to be chosen by one of the city’s finest medical institutions.”
Pitts is a senior fellow of hospital medicine and has been a leader among hospitalists for many years. Most recently she was senior vice president for the Kansas City and Wichita region of IPC -The Hospitalist Company/TeamHealth, and medical director for Encompass Hospice in Lee’s Summit and Kindred Transitional Care Hospital in Kansas City, which provides long-term acute care.
In announcing her appointment, Research noted that Pitts was the first woman and person of color to be its chief medical officer.
But Pitts has been used to “firsts” since 1980 when she says she was one of the first from Kansas City, Kan., to be admitted to the UMKC School of Medicine’s six-year program.
She also was the first in her family to become a physician, though hardly the first to be in medicine.
“I come from a medical family,” Pitts said. “My mother, Pinkie Mitchem, was assistant director of nursing/operating room at KU for 20-plus years. My sister, Leartis Harper, is also a nurse.”
Pitts said her direct patient-care experience at UMKC and then in her residency at Truman Medical Center/Consortium made her comfortable in practice right from the start, so she was “identified early as a leader, to supervise and mentor others.”
She said Dr. Larry Dall, docent at UMKC, was one of her mentors.
“I practiced with him from 2002 to 2013 until he returned to the medical school,” she said. “UMKC allowed me to interact with the community physicians, fostering relationships that have been supportive and career altering.”
Others encouraged her to follow her ideas for improving management and patient care, she said. A one-year fellowship in 2011-12 at the University California-San Francisco gave her further training and experience in hospitalist leadership, and in 2012 she became senior medical director for IPC.
Pitts’ ascent to chief medical officer at Research was effective Jan. 30. She said she already was busy working with the medical center’s physicians and staff to ensure that everyone was engaged in providing efficient and effective care.
“I’ve had plenty of opportunities to go elsewhere, but no desire to leave Kansas City,” said Pitts, who is married and has a son studying economics at the University of Chicago. “This is home.”