Inspired by the Tradition of Women Leaders at McLean

March 21, 2019

Every day on the job, Dawn Morrissey draws inspiration from McLean Hospital’s past. “When I walk through the hallway leading to the Administration Building on my way to meetings, I always look at the pictures on the wall of the female nurses, doctors, and scientists who have worked at McLean over the years,” she said.

“These are women—like Emma Mooers, MD, the first female researcher at McLean, Golda Edinburg, MSW, the first female social worker at McLean, and Nancy Mello, PhD, the first woman at McLean to hold the rank of full professor at Harvard Medical School—who strived and achieved great things in their careers. Seeing those pictures reminds me that women are integral to the mission of the hospital.”

In her role as McLean’s director of Research Operations, Morrissey is carrying on that long tradition of female leadership and accomplishment. Overseeing some 40 clinical and basic research laboratories, Morrissey makes sure that the hospital’s investigators have everything they need to do their work.

“I’m involved in compliance, safety, space management, capital requests, and strategy as well as special projects,” she said. “Research is 24/7. It never stops. So, it’s essential that we do whatever it takes to keep the work moving forward.”

Dawn Morrissey
Dawn Morrissey

To keep projects on track, she relies on her talented team for support. “I place trust in my team,” she said. “I think it’s important to appreciate and acknowledge what your staff do—the mundane as well as the extraordinary.” She said that “good communication and having respect for other people’s experience” are essential to effective leadership.

Morrissey developed her leadership skills over her 20-plus-year career at McLean. A native of Ireland, Morrissey came to the hospital as a “temp” at age 27 after living for a while in Australia and New Zealand. “I got a job working for the Neve lab in Mailman Research, overseeing their grants and general administration,” she said.

“Shortly afterwards, I was offered a full-time job and had to think hard if I wanted to pursue my film career or stay at McLean. Ultimately, I took the job and went back to school and got a master’s degree in business.”

“I fell in love with McLean. It felt like a family,” Morrissey said. “Everyone was invested in the research and the care of the patients. I stayed because of my loyalty to the institution.”

When she’s not bringing her skills and passion to work at McLean, Morrissey is deeply involved in supporting and celebrating the local Irish community. Since 2009, she has served as director of Boston’s annual Irish Film Festival. A showcase for films reflecting contemporary Irish culture, the festival was founded in 1999.

Morrissey is also an ambassador for Irish Network Boston, a professional and social organization that brings together individuals from business, science, and the arts to support the Irish community in Greater Boston.

If her multifaceted job at McLean and her wide-ranging outside interests weren’t enough to keep her busy, Morrissey is also the mother of two boys. To stay on top of her many activities and responsibilities, Morrissey looks at those pictures on the wall and thinks of the countless women who have made so many contributions to McLean.

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