Hospital CEO leads Hudson Valley Heart Walk

Steven Kelley

In January, heart disease became personal for Steven Kelley, president and CEO of Ellenville Regional Hospital, and past three-term chair of the American Heart Association Board of Directors in the Poughkeepsie area.

“I’m in pretty good health,” Kelley said, “but when I went for my routine cardiologist appointment in January, my cardiologist Dr. Sandeep Joshi of The Heart Center in Ellenville, said I looked a little tired.”

“I’m 64, I lead a hospital, and life is an adventure,” Kelley said. “It was also a Friday afternoon, so of course I was tired.”

But a stress test told a different story.

“You know, you lay down, and they test your heart,” Kelley explained. “Then you jump on a treadmill – and they pushed me hard – then you lay down again.”

Kelley said the images taken during the stress test revealed what was happening.

“The doctor showed me my heart beating happily at rest,” Kelley said. “Under stress, it was all over the place. It didn’t even look like a heart.”

Kelley was in ventricular tachycardia, or v-tach, an arrhythmia that causes a faster than normal heart rate. The rapid heartbeat keeps the heart’s chambers from filling completely between contractions, which compromises blood flow to the rest of the heart.

The previous day, he had gone skiing with his eight year old grandson, so the interventional cardiologist wasn’t anticipating finding anything significant, resulting in Kelley being under conscious sedation.

“Then he says, ‘these arteries don’t look so good,’ and I said ‘Hey, I’m right here,’” Kelley said.

Although calcium build-up made it tricky, Kelley’s arteries were stented.

“It’s a little emotional,” Kelley said. “I’m a CEO, I’m go, go, go; I have to make a lot of tough decisions. But if Dr. Sandeep Joshi hadn’t noticed that I didn’t look good, I might be dead.”

Not long after his procedure, the American Heart Association invited Kelley to chair the 2024 Hudson Valley Heart Walk.

“How could I not?” he asked.

Kelley has led Ellenville Regional Hospital for 20 years. He had been the CEO of Kingston Ambulatory Surgical Center before that, and business development officer at Kingston Hospital. He worked at RPI in Troy, and at Albany Med, designed a patient classification system to determine reimbursement for an emergency room visit. Kelley began his career at IBM, but his minister grandfather’s viewpoints led Kelley to seek a community-focused career, and he moved toward healthcare.

He holds an MBA in healthcare administration from Union College, and is a graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology. He is married with two adult children – one a law professor at Cornell and one a student at the Rhode Island School of Design – and has two grandchildren.

Kelley is also supporting the American Heart Association as a way of improving the health of his community.

“I represent a small hospital in a rural community,” he said. “The largest employers are the prisons, and the corrections officers have very high-stress jobs. I’m here for them, and for all of our community.”

Kelley said the Hudson Valley Heart Walk is an important event that can benefit the whole community.

“People should definitely come to the Heart Walk, and raise money for it,” he said. “The American Heart Association is the premiere organization to save lives. We’ll be raising funds for research to study the leading cause of death, heart disease. This is our best opportunity to save lives. I can’t think of a better charity to give to.”

The Hudson Valley Heart Walk combines the Dutchess-Ulster Heart Walk and the Tri-County Heart Walk into one event, set for Saturday, April 27, on the Walkway Over the Hudson. Participants can start on either side of the bridge. Mary Jo Cipollini and Karina Gonzabay will share their stories of living with heart disease. A survivor will share her story on either side of the bridge as the Walk steps off. Register at