March 28, 2022

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In Memoriam: Sheila Morgan Keller, PhD

Published on Monday, March 28, 2022

The Medical Center extends its sympathy to the family of a former faculty member in appreciation for the loved one’s contributions to the academic health sciences center.

Sheila Morgan Keller, PhD

Portrait of Sheila Morgan Keller

Sheila Morgan Keller, PhD, will be remembered as much for her kindness and mentoring as she will for her many contributions to the nursing profession.

Keller, an associate professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, died at her home in Brandon March 18. She was 62.

“Sheila, from the time I met her until our last conversation, spoke thoughtfully and showed kindness to everyone,” said Dr. Mary Stewart, director of the PhD program in Nursing Science at the School of Nursing. “A brilliant scholar, Sheila modeled the values of integrity, respect and excellence to students and faculty always. Her passing leaves a void in the PhD program and a hole in many hearts.”

Keller’s dedication to her students was a hallmark of her career, said Dr. M. Jeanne Fortenberry Calcote, assistant professor and director of the Nursing and Health Care Administration track in the Master of Science in Nursing program.

 “Her work lives on through the students and nurses she mentored,” Calcote said, noting that Keller was inducted into the Nelson Order, a student-nominated honor, in 2012.

Dr. Jennifer C. Robinson, professor emeritus, agreed. “On a personal level, Dr. Keller was the type of friend and mentor we all strive to be. She was giving and kind. She was someone you could count on even when one didn’t know what kind of help you needed. She just jumped in and did without a specific request. During a personal crisis, she was there for me. It is a great loss for her family, her friends, the School of Nursing, and the larger research community. Her legacy will continue through the multiple people she mentored and worked with who continue to work to improve health of Mississippians and the United States.”

Born Aug. 1, 1959, in Pensacola, Florida, to Glen Stanford Morgan Sr. and Hazel Marshall Morgan, Keller graduated from New Hebron High School in 1977 before earning an associate degree from Copiah-Lincoln Community College. Ultimately, she obtained her PhD in Clinical Health Sciences from the School of Health Related Professions at UMMC.

Keller joined UMMC as a research associate in the Department of Family Medicine in 1985. She left UMMC briefly in 1999 to work as a biostatistician for the Mississippi State Department of Health. Upon completion of her PhD in 2001 she returned to UMMC as an assistant professor in the School of Health-Related Professions.

She transitioned to the UMMC School of Nursing, first as a clinical assistant professor, then in 2009 as associate professor and senior director of research and evidence-based practice. Keller was instrumental in promoting nursing research and evidence-based practice in the School of Nursing and UMMC’s hospitals.

As senior director of research and evidence-based practice, she chaired the Nursing Research & Quality Council at UMMC and the Research Council in the School of Nursing. Under her leadership, nursing staff began leading or assisting in a wide range of scholarly work and improvement projects and launched the first Nursing Grand Rounds to spotlight their success stories.

Keller mentored staff nurses, nursing residents and nursing students at all levels in their pursuit of implementing evidence-based practices and building new knowledge through research. She was influential in nurses being added to the Institutional Review Board at UMMC.

“Dr. Keller took this mission to the next level by assisting nursing staff and nursing faculty in crafting individualized research and scholarship plans,” Calcote said. “She reinforced the value of these works by regularly following up on these plans and providing support whenever needed. She had an undeniable passion for improving the health and well-being of patients and the community through excellent training for health care professionals, engagement in innovative research, and the delivery of state-of-the-art health care.”

Keller served on multiple PhD and DNP dissertation committees and chaired many. She also served on the UMMC Institutional Review Board (2009-2013), UMMC Research Advisory Committee (2010- 2013), the School of Health Related Professions Research and Development Committee (2001-2004), the Robert Wood Johnson Partners Investing in Nursing Advisory Board and the Mississippi Nursing Workforce Board (2006-2009). Keller chaired the UMMC Health Care Disparities Council’s Quality Sub-council (2011-2015).

Grant development was also a focus, with Keller helping develop health care funding from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Mississippi Office of Nursing Workforce and the Bower Foundation.

Keller authored numerous publications and made presentations on a national level. She served as a principal investigator and a co-investigator on numerous research projects at UMMC. Most recently, she was a co-investigator for the Mississippi Diabetes Telehealth Network-Rural Healthcare Pilot. She also served as a consultant to the Mississippi Hospital Association, the Mississippi Office of Nursing Workforce, and the Mississippi State Department of Health.

Keller retired in 2015 but continued to work part-time until 2019.

She also had more than 15 years of health care consulting experience, most recently as owner of Morgan Keller Consulting.

Survivors include her husband, Mark Keller; daughters Rachel Sanders of Little Elm, Texas, and Elizabeth Cliburn of Brandon; brother Stan Morgan of Ruth; and two granddaughters.