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September 22, 2023

LHC Executive Briefing featuring Dee Anna Smith, CEO at Sarah Cannon

LHC Executive Briefing featuring Dee Anna Smith, CEO at Sarah Cannon

Written by Chris Nichols, client solutions manager, Endevis.

Dee Anna Smith, CEO at Sarah Cannon – The Cancer Institute of HCA Healthcare, joined Leadership Health Care (LHC) on August 7th at City Winery in downtown Nashville as part of its “Executive Briefing” series.  Dee Anna has served in her role since her appointment in 2006. 

View event on Flickr.

Photo Credit: (c) 2019, Johnathan Jones 

Dee Anna spoke candidly about her career and its many twists and turns leading ultimately, to her current role.  Along the way, she has earned numerous recognitions, both locally (Rodgers Award given by Operation Andrew) & as her alma mater’s, Pepperdine University, Distinguished Alumnus Award, where she now serves as the chair of the Board of Regents. Additionally, Dee Anna shared with the group Sarah Cannon’s mission and its role as a leader in clinical research.

Dee Anna kicked off her solo presentation asking the group an eye-opening question “If you have been personally affected or had someone that you love affected by cancer, please raise your hand” in which nearly every person in the crowd raised his/her hand.  As cancer has become a chronic disease in our country, Dee Anna shared numerous statistics about the impact this has on our lives.  For example, 1 out of every 2 men and 1 out of every 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer in his/her lifetime. 

At Sarah Cannon, experts are transforming care and personalizing treatment for patients. Sarah Cannon provides world-class cancer care and cutting-edge research in communities across the U.S. and UK, so that patients can stay close to home during their cancer journey with the support of their family and friends. 85% of cancer patients are treated in their own community. HCA Healthcare, thanks to its massive scale, is capable of bringing world-class cancer care to people where they live.

Cancer, as opposed to say a stroke or heart attack, is a disease that typically allows patients to make a choice on the location in which they receive their care. “Cancer” is consistently one of the top two search related terms in healthcare indicating that patients are looking for the location they get the most innovative therapies. 

With more than 3,000 patients enrolling on clinical trials each year across its sites, Sarah Cannon has been a clinical trial leader in the majority of approved cancer therapies over the last decade.  Additionally, Sarah Cannon provides nurse navigators that walk with the patient through every step of their cancer journey – helping them understand their disease and serving as an advocate throughout their care.

While Dee Anna is passionate about cancer care, she is also an avid supporter of career development and being a champion for those who know how to put their nose to the grindstone and create results.  An accountant by trade, she realized early on that if you understand how the money works, you can understand how to run the business.  Her entrepreneurial spirit was found early on in her days at KPMG where she worked exclusively with healthcare clients.

During the Q & A period, one of the highlights was Dee Anna’s thoughtful “Embrace Your Place” mindset. Dee Anna’s comments centered around the need to be recognized for the position you are in and for the work you are doing before being able to strive and push for greater responsibilities. She assured the attendees that if you deliver results and show your worth to the organization through a relentless work ethic, you will be seen and heard.

The final question of the day centered around equality for women and the gender pay gap.  Dee Anna focused her response around the word “value.”  Going back to the idea of “embracing your place”, she maintained her stance on focusing less around the barriers or obstacles in front of you and more around loving what you do and being passionate about your role as that in itself will lead to greatness.

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