Profile image of Jana Wessels

35-year career at Iowa includes nearly two decades of human resources expertise and collaboration for UI Health Care

Jana Wessels, JD, MBA, associate vice president for human resources with University of Iowa Health Care, has announced her plans to retire in May 2024.

Through 35 years of service at the university, including the past 18 years with UI Health Care, Wessels has held key leadership roles across campus. As associate vice president for UI Health Care, she has overseen human resources activities for the entire health system, which now comprises nearly 20,000 employees.

She has provided strategic guidance as a member of UI Health Care’s senior leadership group while directing a team of human resources professionals and working collaboratively on issues such as workforce planning, recruitment and retention, compensation and classification, negotiation and administration of union contracts, shared governance, compliance with state and federal regulations, and performance review and management.

“Jana possesses a keen ability to find creative approaches to seemingly intractable problems. She is a consummate professional with extraordinary command not only of human resources, labor law, and academic medicine, but also what it takes to make meaningful and lasting organizational change through trusted, inspired leadership,” says Denise Jamieson, MD, MPH, UI vice president for medical affairs and the Tyrone D. Artz Dean of the Carver College of Medicine. “It takes a great human resources team—and a great leader of this team—to navigate the opportunities and challenges that come with balancing the needs of our employees and the mission and goals of our organization. Jana is that type of leader: thorough, thoughtful, and committed to the best interests of our health system, the university, and our community and state. I’ve enjoyed working with and learning from her, and we all wish her well as she looks toward retirement.”

Wessels joined UI Health Care in 2006 as assistant to the dean and director of Human Resources in the UI Carver College of Medicine. Three years later, she was appointed assistant vice president for Human Resources with UI Health Care, which expanded her scope of responsibilities to include the patient care enterprise of UI Hospitals & Clinics. She was named associate vice president in 2010.

“Working on behalf of the entire health system gave me an even greater appreciation of our mission—education, research and discovery, patient care, and service to the state,” Wessels says. “It gave me a unique perspective, and it made me a better HR leader.”

Wessels was instrumental in numerous initiatives that affected UI Health Care and university employees. Her key accomplishments include:

  • Integrating and restructuring human resources operations and reporting across the Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals & Clinics, and creating a unified HR office
  • Developing and implementing a market-based compensation program for UI Health Care
  • Serving as a charter member of a campus steering committee charged to transform the university’s classification system for all professional and scientific staff
  • Creating a research internship program for baccalaureate degree holders considering careers in STEM fields
  • Implementing plans and practices to avoid layoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Chairing a task force on remote work for health care employees and leading the adoption of a framework to help the organization navigate a major sea change in workplace culture
  • Leading efforts to foster a welcoming and collaborative organizational workplace, resulting in multiyear recognition in Forbes magazine’s “America’s Best Employers” surveys of U.S. employees
  • Overseeing her team’s efforts to onboard 1,000-plus new employees to UI Health Care’s downtown medical campus

Prior to joining UI Health Care, Wessels spent six years as director of operations in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences—leading all administrative aspects of the UI Division of Performing Arts. Earlier in her career, she was director of the Executive MBA Program in the UI Tippie College of Business and director of national scholarship and recognition programs at ACT Inc.

Wessels is an adjunct associate professor in the UI College of Public Health, and she has been active in professional organizations at the national level throughout her career, including the Society for Human Resource Management, the American Society for Health Care Human Resources, and the Vizient Human Resources Council, among others.

Her numerous awards and honors include the Carver College of Medicine Exceptional Performance Award, the UI Outstanding Staff Award, and the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Staff Excellence Award.

“My time with UI Health Care, and the broader university, has been such a rewarding experience,” Wessels says. “I’ve had opportunities to work with so many talented people across campus, and I’ve been able to play a part in bringing in and supporting some of the very best physicians, scientists, and health care staff in the world. I’m also grateful to have hired and mentored such outstanding colleagues in UI Health Care Human Resources. I know they are up to the challenges ahead, as they have proven time and time again.”