Annette Walker is a big believer in taking a chance. That’s what she did in 2018 when she decided to leave Providence St. Joseph Health to join City of Hope and lead development of its campus in Orange County, Calif. Last June, City of Hope announced plans to invest more than $1 billion to build a new comprehensive cancer center in the county.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR RISKIEST DECISION? Moving from Providence St. Joseph Health to City of Hope.
WHY WAS THAT MOVE RISKY? I was working at the second-largest health system in the U.S. and I was on the senior leadership team. The thought of leaving that was pretty scary. The prospect of what the City of Hope meant to Orange County—it was a dream, it was a vision. Now that it’s becoming a reality, it feels like a lot smarter decision. It felt pretty risky at the time. My favorite things I’ve done are about where I got to create them. And this was the ultimate—starting with a dirt lot, we were going to have this vision to create City of Hope Orange County.
WHAT WAS THE OUTCOME? We had 3,200 patients last year drive from Orange County to Los Angeles to City of Hope. It could be a four-hour commute on a good day. Add that to the complexity of having cancer. People stop me on the street and to say, “Hey, thank you for accepting this assignment and bringing City of Hope to our community.” That’s never happened to me in any job I’ve had, and I’ve had some really good ones. When we did the review of how Orange County would benefit most from City of Hope, it was super-specialized cancer care as well as research. We came to a vision that is resulting in a $1 billion investment in the form of a cancer center; a specialty cancer hospital, which would be the only specialty cancer hospital in Orange County; as well as a network that will surround those to give comprehensive cancer care throughout the county.