Computer science for the cure

Profile | Keith Perry

By Hannah Diles

When Keith Perry (’89) graduated from Harding, he never expected his bachelor’s degree in computer science to find a home in the world of health care. Three decades later, Perry is the senior vice president and chief information officer at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Perry was awarded the 2022 Tennessee CIO of the Year ORBIE Award for Enterprise, honoring his work and leadership at St. Jude. 

“Every organization is technology-dependent, but strong leadership is the X-factor that can turn mundane IT into a remarkable strategic differentiator,” said Andy Flatt, Tennessee CIO chair. “The ORBIE Awards are meaningful because they are judged by peers — CIOs who understand the challenges of technology leadership. Increasingly, having strong business-centric, executive technology leadership is key not only to success, but to the very existence of the business.”

Perry is humbled by the high esteem held by his peers but believes the award reflects the entire team’s work. He is passionate about the mission at the heart of St. Jude — to fight catastrophic pediatric disease through research and prevention. Every five years, Perry and his colleagues create a strategic roadmap to serve as a guide for the institution, including a plan for global alliance involving 130 institutions across 61 countries. To meet expansion needs, Perry and his team are implementing electronic health records and resource planning systems, growing high-performance computing including machine learning and artificial intelligence applications, and constantly evolving cybersecurity capabilities in support of the institutional strategic priorities.

“We are asking ourselves, ‘If we don’t do this, who will?’ We can’t solve this problem by ourselves,” Perry said. “We need a community of people that are thinking about this problem differently. In building and understanding at a cellular level, the work done here flows up through clinical trials and translational research that is giving us better care and tomorrow’s cures.” 

Perry loves that St. Jude prioritizes connection, humanity, outreach and teamwork, and he is deeply thankful to Harding for teaching him these values. In his time at the University, Perry was active in the computer science department and learned the value of connection through his professors and classmates. The Harding community nurtured his love for outreach, and playing Bison football developed the value of teamwork. 

In choosing the next step forward, Perry states it is of the utmost importance to lean on faith. “Jump and have faith that God is going to catch you. My prayer always is ‘God, use me where I am.’  In each step, have faith, and he will provide the next one,” Perry said. 

Categories: Alumni Profiles.

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