Angelleen Peters-Lewis

Angelleen Peters-Lewis, vice president and chief operating officer of Barnes- Jewish Hospital, is the St. Louis American Foundation’s 2023 Stellar Performer in Health Care.

When Angelleen Peters-Lewis was growing up in her hometown of Boston, she initially had dreams of becoming an attorney.

In her junior year of high school, she found herself pregnant.  Instead of derailing her professional goals, the compassionate healthcare she received from a nurse as she dealt with the side-effects of her pregnancy put her on path to purpose.

“I used to be ashamed of my story, but one person came up to me and said, ‘because of you, I realized I could go to school,’” said Peters-Lewis. “The opportunity to provide hope is not something I take lightly. And I really believe out of that moment – which seemed like the darkest time of my life –fueled my passion to serve and my purpose in terms of eliminating racial health disparities and serving along with other like-minded individuals to do that work.”

Thirty-five years ago, she was encouraged that she could complete her education and succeed at whatever she set her mind to by a nurse who made sure support systems were in place for her to thrive. Today, Angelleen Peters-Lewis, PhD, RN, FAAN is among the leadership of Barnes-Jewish Hospital, where she serves as vice president and chief operating officer. For her unwavering commitment to her field, Peters-Lewis has been named the 2023 Stellar Performer in Health Care by the St. Louis American Foundation. She will be among those recognized at the 23rd Annual Salute to Excellence in Health Care Reception at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 23 at the Hilton St. Louis Frontenac.

“I am shocked and in awe,” Peters-Lewis said of the honor. “All I hope to do is play some small part in making it better to serve the patients and families who entrust us with their care. I don’t think of that as stellar. I just think of that as being a part of an amazing team.”

She originally joined Barnes-Jewish Hospital in 2017 as vice president of patient care services and chief nursing executive.

Peters-Lewis fell in love with the organization’s mission during her first 100 days. Her commitment to “caring for the underserved and academic preeminence” has only grown stronger over the past six years.

“I’m inspired every single day by the innovation and discovery that happens here and our ability to translate that to the care patients receive,” Peters-Lewis said. “When you are in love with an institution and you are inspired by what it does, it makes it easy. I just feel privileged to be a part of it – and that keeps me going. I don’t find the work hard because I’m so passionate about it.”

She was promoted to her current position during the pandemic.

“Although it was without a doubt one of the most challenging times, it has also been one of the highlights of my career,” Peters-Lewis said. “Every day – when our team showed up committed to caring for these patients no matter what – That was truly a highlight.”

She rightfully likened the work of her team during the pandemic to being on the frontlines of a battlefield. They had two goals – to keep their team safe, and to save as many lives as possible.

“We didn’t lose anyone on our team,” she said. “And we saved a lot of lives.”

Peters-Lewis also says that as people talk about the tragic losses of life, they should also be mindful of how many lives were saved because of the selflessness and sacrifice of health care warriors.

“I may have post-traumatic stress, but I feel that it was a privilege to serve,” Peters-Lewis said. “And that when the history books are written and they talk about how many lives were saved that along with this team will go in the history books as serving when people needed us most.”

A dream redefined

During her high-school pregnancy, Peters-Lewis suffered from nausea so extreme that she had to be hospitalized. Her teenage mind couldn’t articulate it at the time, but as she received different levels of care during encounters with those charged with her care, she began to grasp the concept that emotional well-being and how you are treated is linked to how she felt physically.

“The days when I had a poor nurse, I actually felt worse,” Peters-Lewis said. “I realized that compassionate care in itself is a dose of medicine.”

Then she met a nurse who – in addition to providing excellent care – set Peters-Lewis up to succeed. She arranged for her to have a tutor when she was home sick. She made sure when Peters-Lewis returned to school that she had the right support to thrive academically as a young mother.

“She said, ‘if you still want to go to school, you can do that’,” Peters-Lewis said. “She told me, ‘You had a little bump in the road, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose your dreams.”

Not getting an education was not an option for Peters-Lewis, the daughter of Caribbean parents who immigrated to the United States from Montserrat and Trinidad.

“One of the positive things that I get from my parents is a spirit of resiliency – you don’t migrate from another country without some strength,” Peters-Lewis said. “To them, America was the pathway for education. And what that meant for us is that you were going to get educated whether you liked it or not.”

Peters-Lewis received her doctorate in nursing from Boston College, where she graduated with distinction and received the Dorothy A. Jones Award for Scholarship, Service and Development. She earned a master’s degree in nursing from Northeastern University and earned her bachelor’s in nursing from Simmons College in Boston.  

The St. Louis American Foundation’s 23rd Annual Salute to Excellence in Health Care Awards Reception will take place from 5:30 – 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 22 at the Hilton St. Louis Frontenac. For tickets and/or additional information, call (314)533-8000 or visit

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