City of Hope picks Walker to head Orange County campus
Cancer treatment provider City of Hope has snagged a top Providence St. Joseph Health executive to oversee the development of a $200 million cancer center in Orange County.
Annette Walker will soon become the president of City of Hope, Orange County, and lead the not-for-profit cancer research and treatment center's expansion into her home county. Walker currently serves as president of strategy for not-for-profit Providence St. Joseph Health, and was instrumental in the Renton, Wash.-based health system's formation through a merger in 2016. She also served as chief executive of St. Joseph Health, where she worked for 11 years.
"It's just an opportunity that's not going to come along very many times in a career," Walker said in an interview with Modern Healthcare about the post she'll assume in July.
In the new role, Walker, who has lived in Orange County for 40 years, said she'll harness her longstanding relationships with local providers and community partners, her thorough knowledge of the regional market and her years of experience in strategy and plan execution.
"I think those experiences have positioned me to how to envision what this could be for Orange County and how to actually make it come alive," she said.
City of Hope, a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, has 29 sites of care in Southern California. The Irvine cancer center will be built on property donated by a joint venture. Robert W. Stone, City of Hope's CEO, said he expects to open the cancer center, which is still in the design phase, in two to three years, but that he expects to open other facilities in the county well before that.
"Too many organizations go into communities and try to expand—especially in the Southern California marketplace—without having a deep understanding of, 'What do people living in those communities need?'" Stone said.
That's why Stone said he's excited about Walker's deep knowledge of the community and of the healthcare environment. In fact, he said he did not consider anyone else for the role.
Along with overseeing the center's development, Walker will oversee the expansion of the center's treatment and prevention programs throughout the Orange County region.
At Providence St. Joseph Health, Walker spearheaded the launch of Wellness Corners, centers that provide medical care and promote healthy lifestyles, throughout Orange County. Modern Healthcare named Walker one of its top 25 women in U.S. healthcare last year.
Walker has a master's degree in health administration from the University of Minnesota and a Bachelor of Science degree from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
As prosperous and robust as Orange County is, about 20% of cancer patients travel to Los Angeles for treatment, so bringing those services to the community has "deep resonance," Walker said.
"I could use that line, 'There's no place like home,'" she said. "I can pay attention to a lot of things that are going on in this country, but healthcare in my own community is extremely important to me."
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