Excellence in Nursing – Leadership/Executive: Camellia Herisko

Vice President of Operations and Strategy Implementation, UPMC Western Behavioral Health


For nearly four decades, Camellia Herisko has been at the forefront of mental and behavioral health care. A nurse who originally felt drawn to the field after witnessing certain family members navigate their own related issues, Herisko has committed her career to improving care for every UPMC patient.

“We’ve really worked hard to standardize the care for all the behavioral health patients across all of our systems,” says Herisko, who oversees administrative processes for the 263-bed inpatient facility as well as the Psychiatric Emergency and Crisis Services.

Herisko has worked with other leaders to adopt a service line approach to behavioral health, which involves managing best practices in units located in UPMC hospitals as well as adopting a navigation model for behavioral health patients in the medical hospitals and emergency departments.

“The ultimate goal is to get the patient to the right level of care in a timely manner,” says Herisko, adding that the demand for such care has been brought into brighter light since the pandemic, when mental health became a regular topic of public dialogue.

“The need for behavioral health touches everybody,” she says. “It’s not unique to only certain people. I think everybody has experienced it, either with a loved one or a friend or a neighbor or somebody. It’s out there. The more people are talking about it and sharing their own personal experiences, the more we’ll be able to meet the need.”

Herisko also focuses on developing future leaders and helping others meet their own professional goals. “They’re here for the same reasons I’m here,” she says. “They’re not going to work in this field unless they care and they want to promote good patient care. I’m here to make sure they can do that.”

Herisko’s own goals include looking at new models of care to remain on the cutting edge.

“What worked back then might not work exactly now,” she says. “We have to be willing to revise those programs and look at them from a fresh eye and say, ‘Is this really the way we want to do it? Or can we be more innovative?’ We need to be able to be flexible and provide innovative programming to meet the needs of our community.”

Categories: Excellence in Nursing