Aug. 31, 2022 — As a self-proclaimed “Triple Gator,” Maria Kelly, M.D., FAAP, has experienced the UF College of Medicine from the diverse perspectives of a student, resident and faculty member. This deep understanding of all facets of the college’s mission has fittingly prepared Kelly for her new role as the assistant dean and chief medical officer of University of Florida Health Physicians, a position she begins Oct. 1.
“I am fortunate enough to have been at the University of Florida for nearly three decades now, and it feels like home,” she said. “I am excited to expand what I have learned about quality, safety and clinical leadership in pediatrics and apply this skill set to improving our health outcomes and the patient experience for the entire UF Health faculty practice.”
As a pediatrician, Kelly has delivered exceptional care to children and families, excelled as a clinician educator and provided administrative leadership as a medical director at two separate successful pediatric outpatient sites. She has also demonstrated remarkable success in overseeing quality initiatives and projects to improve patient safety and clinical efficiency.
In her new position, Kelly will provide physician leadership to ensure the highest quality of medical care and patient safety in all UF Health Physicians practices.
“Ensuring world-class patient experience is one our key priorities,” says Colleen Koch, M.D., M.S., M.B.A., dean of the UF College of Medicine. “We are excited for Dr. Kelly to build upon our success to elevate our patient-centered focus and sustain a culture of quality and safety among UF Health physicians, clinicians and staff.”
Born and raised in Melbourne, Florida, Kelly earned her bachelor’s degree in zoology from UF before receiving her medical degree from the UF College of Medicine. While a third-year medical student, she formed a close relationship with her faculty mentor, Maureen Novak, M.D., who played a pivotal role in her career trajectory.
“I greatly admired her teaching and mentoring style, which was very encouraging but also demanding of excellence,” Kelly said. “Just watching how she interacted with children, families and learners was very influential for me, and I wanted to develop the same close relationships with my patients, families and students.” Novak, a leader in pediatric medical student and residency education at that time, also played a big part in Kelly deciding to stay at UF for pediatric residency.
During her residency and specifically her chief residency year, Kelly gained invaluable firsthand experience with the importance of quality and safety in patient care and health care delivery in general. “Very early in my career, I became involved with projects that revolved around quality initiatives and improving patient care. It was very rewarding to watch as many of my initiatives resulted in positive changes that improved the patient experience and optimized our ability to deliver quality patient care,” Kelly said.
In 2006, Kelly joined the faculty in the department of pediatrics. Since then, she has worked in numerous patient settings and has implemented many clinical initiatives that have improved the landscape of pediatric practice at UF Health. In 2016, she was the physician lead for the creation of the successful UF Health Tioga pediatric outpatient site. She also helped spearhead the pediatric COVID response, created a cocooning process for influenza and COVID vaccination for parents and caretakers and most recently created, and is implementing, a program to help adolescents and young adults transition from pediatric to adult care.
Moving forward, Kelly will use her extensive background to enhance patient experience efforts and advance UF Health Physicians’ scores for the Merit-based Incentive Payment System, or MIPS, the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set, or HEDIS, and other population health metrics. She will also serve as the physician leader of the Clinical Safety Committee and the physician director of the Nurse Practice Council.
“Patient quality is at the heart of everything we do,” said Laura Gruber, M.B.A., M.H.S, associate vice president of UF Health Physicians. “Dr. Kelly has long been a champion of excellence in patient experience, safety and satisfaction, and she will bring great value to UF Health Physicians in her new role leading our quality initiatives.”
Kelly has received numerous awards for achievements in teaching and patient care. She is a repeat winner of both the College of Medicine Exemplary Teacher Award and the UF Health Shands Customer Service is the Key Award, and she consistently ranks in the 99th percentile for patient satisfaction. Last year, she was one of only 70 faculty nationwide selected for the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine program at Drexel University. Her research on medical education and quality improvement has received grant funding and resulted in numerous peer-reviewed articles and manuscripts.
“Dr. Kelly is an outstanding choice for this position, both in temperament and skill,” said Marvin Dewar, M.D., J.D., senior associate dean and CEO of UF Health Physicians. “We have watched for years as Maria successfully advanced the cause of quality and patient-centric care in pediatrics. Now she will do the same thing on a broader stage, and I have no doubt we will be better for her efforts.”