One Donor Asks: What Are We Doing This Year?

June 18, 2023

When long-time supporter Ann O’Keefe talks about McLean, she uses words like “scale,” “impact,” and “sustainability.”

Ann is both eloquent and elegant in her approach to philanthropy and has honed her efforts into a process that both speaks to her own passions and provides maximum impact for McLean.

Ann comes from a philanthropic family. Her parents started a foundation, and since their deaths, Ann has been a careful steward of her family’s legacy. She refers to her parents as clever, informed, and involved donors—she might as well be describing herself.

Approaching each year as a new challenge, Ann has supported McLean for more than a decade with intelligence and enthusiasm, always searching for something that feels like the perfect storm of joy, innovation, and impact. She rolls up her sleeves and gets to work meeting with clinicians and researchers, asking probing questions, reading up on new initiatives, and listening to presentations.

“I’ve been all over McLean with my unflagging partner Lori Etringer [McLean’s chief development officer],” said Ann. “I learn so much every year, and Lori makes the process fun while we work together to answer my annual question: ‘What are we doing this year?’”

“I’m always looking for that great idea—one that needs a kick-start to get it off the ground so that it’s eligible for other funding or can become sustainable and won’t depend on my support for the long term,” explained Ann.

Ann’s own interests and background intersect perfectly with McLean’s mission. After attaining both a BA and an MA in psychology, she wanted to become a researcher, but “I was unable to accept a spot in a PhD program because I was suffering from alcoholism at the time,” she said.

Now, with 34 years of sobriety under her belt, she has raised two children and had a successful career. She feels that her partnership with McLean allows her to continue the education she was unable to complete years ago.

Woman with bright pink sweater

Ann O’Keefe

There is an impressive list of programs at McLean that have benefited from Ann’s informed philanthropy. Two of these stand out for her.

A decade ago, she met Dost Öngür, MD, PhD, chief of McLean’s Division of Psychotic Disorders. Öngür wanted to launch an outpatient program specializing in early recognition and treatment for young adults ages 18 to 30 who had recently experienced a first psychotic episode.

Öngür believes deeply that intervention is critical during the time immediately following the onset of psychosis.

Ann partnered with her brother in providing the initial resources to pilot the program over its first two years. Today, the McLean OnTrack is an enormously successful service that helps patients find meaning and control in their lives at a critical time in their recovery.

Ann was thrilled that Öngür’s OnTrack idea expanded into another program: the Support, Treatment, and Resilience (STAR) Program.

STAR is run by double-board certified psychiatrist Perihan Esra Guvenek-Cokol, MD, and delivers outpatient care to teens and young adults ages 14-25 who are at risk of developing a psychotic illness.

McLean’s unique Spirituality and Mental Health Program (SMHP) is another one of Ann’s favorites.

After reading a McLean newsletter article in 2015 about the burgeoning program led by David H. Rosmarin, PhD, ABPP, Ann was excited to learn more.

Rosmarin’s research showed that clinicians were often wary of discussing spirituality with their patients, but that many patients had a desire to incorporate their spiritual beliefs into their treatment. It was an ‘aha’ moment for Ann, who promptly reached out to discuss how she could help.

“The SMHP cuts across every diagnostic category. I’m not sure that any other intervention is so broadly applicable in this way. Spirituality means something different to everyone and is a vital part of recovery for so many,” explained Ann.

“I started talking about spiritual tools with my kids when they were 3 or 4 years old. They not only understood what I was saying, they still use those tools as college students to manage their own stress.”

To date, Ann’s philanthropy has topped a million dollars in support for the hospital. Her focus now is on the critical need for good, accessible, and ongoing mental health treatment for children and adolescents.

She understands that this demographic has been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and, this year, focused much of her giving to support the hospital’s priorities within the Nancy and Richard Simches Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

“A day doesn’t go by without being bombarded with the huge need for mental health care for our youth,” said Ann. “I’m delighted that McLean is tackling this now by increasing beds dedicated for younger patients, putting resources toward training child and adolescent-focused clinicians, creating better environments for care, and proactively laying the groundwork to do more for this important demographic.”

With her penchant for seeding early-stage initiatives, Ann jumped at the chance to support a new cohort of child and adolescent psychology trainees (see Tackling the Mental Health Crisis Among Young People—One Intern at a Time).

Ann appreciates that McLean is so multifaceted and dynamic. She follows along, eager to ask once again: “What are we doing this year?”


Media Requests

Journalist or member of the media? We are available 24/7 for media requests.