Sarah Cannon CEO Dee Anna Smith discusses distinctiveness, leadership at Heroes of Business chapel

Sarah Cannon CEO Dee Anna Smith discusses ...

Sarah Cannon CEO Dee Anna Smith discusses distinctiveness, leadership at Heroes of Business chapel

Dee Anna Smith is the only female, non-physician leader of a cancer company in the world.

She is also the 2013 recipient of the Lipscomb University College of Business Heroes of Business Award. Business students and professionals gathered in Stowe Hall on Thursday, Oct. 31, to hear Smith discuss her leadership role of CEO of the Sarah Cannon Cancer Research Institute.

“My daughter saw a bumper sticker the other day that read, ‘women who behave rarely make history,’” Smith said. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve interpreted ‘behaving badly’ to being distinguished in what we do.

“In Daniel 6, it said that Daniel distinguished himself among the officials. My desire in life is to be distinctive among,” she said.

Smith, a Board Member of the Lipscomb College of Pharmacy, began her career at KPMG, one of the biggest professional audit, tax and advisory service providers in the United States.

“The discipline that I got from working at that company for all those [six] years gave me a fantastic foundation to take that forward,” Smith said.

“The Sarah Cannon Research Institute is in the business of advancing therapy for patients,” Smith said. “It’s a drug testing institute. We want to make sure the medication is safe for people to use. We’ve had quite a large impact in drug development.”

The Sarah Cannon Institute, a Nashville-based foundation, later merged with Hospital Corporations of America (HCA), one of the biggest healthcare providers in the world, to provide healthcare for cancer patients. Together, the two merged companies are worth over $4 billion.

How does Smith take control of such a large company? She says there are a few key components to her leadership success.

Smith is a bachelor of arts in accounting graduate from Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.

“With my accounting degree, I understand the financial impact of every decision I make,” Smith said. “It’s very important to understand how the money works.”

That’s one thing that helps her leadership. The other helpful thing, Smith says, is knowing her own strengths and weaknesses.

“I am one of the best in the world at hiring people smarter than I am to work at Sarah Cannon,” Smith said. “I want to be able to motivate and inspire people to use their technical skills to advance therapy for patients and to be passionate about the patients we serve.”

Smith said that, as a company, their mission is to transform cancer care for patients in the community they live in.

Before Smith ended her talk with a word of advice, she commended Lipscomb’s distinctiveness.

“As a university, Lipscomb wants to be distinguished in the community,” Smith said. “Here, we have business with a purpose.

“Be distinguished,” Smith said. “Don’t measure your success by how much money you make, but by your impact and how distinguished you are.

“Wherever you are in life, take the opportunity to learn everything you can from that situation, and it will help you get to a better situation in life.

The Heroes of Business Award was established to honor executives and leaders who exhibit great business skills as well as high moral integrity. Past award winners include R.A. Dickey, a 2012 Cy Young Award winner, and David Sampson, former deputy secretary of commerce during President George W. Bush’s administration.

Photo courtesy of Lipscomb’s website. 

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