Patient Story

Saint Luke’s Innovation Week Profile: Dr. James O'Keefe


"Medicine is not just an occupation. It's a spiritual obligation to help heal our fellow citizens and our community members."

James O'Keefe, MD, understood the severity of heart disease at a young age.

Several members of his North Dakota community in the 1960s died of heart attacks. No question this was a serious disease, but he recognized it was a manageable one. He became focused on keeping hearts healthy and people alive and well.

"We've made such progress in the last 50 years," Dr. O'Keefe said. "The risk of dying young with heart disease is very preventable."

Dr. O'Keefe earned his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine and trained at the Mayo Clinic for seven years. He's been with Saint Luke's since 1988 and has authored more than 440 research articles.

One of his greatest achievements was publishing a study guide for board exams about electrocardiograms (ECGs), which medical students still use today. Now, cardiologists all over the country know Dr. O'Keefe as "The ECG guy."

Cardiology intrigued him because it was the root cause of many health conditions.

"The thing I love about it is that the same stuff we do to keep our hearts healthy also prevents strokes and Alzheimer's disease," he said. "It's really a personal passion even before it was a professional passion, and it still is.”

Dr. O'Keefe grew up in a family of five siblings. His father was a judge; his mother, a nurse. Many relatives were physicians, and his best friend's dad was the town doctor. Hanging around his friend's house, the stories he heard convinced him at 13 he wanted to be a doctor.

"Medicine is not just an occupation," Dr. O'Keefe said. "It's a spiritual obligation to help heal our fellow citizens and our community members."

Join us for more ground-breaking research stories this week during Saint Luke's Innovation Week.