May 08, 2020 3:00 PM

On May 6, 2020, Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) CEO Mary Beckerle, PhD, gave her State of HCI address. This event is an annual tradition at HCI, where the CEO reports on progress of the past year and plans for the future. Less ordinary during this global coronavirus pandemic, however, was the format. Dr. Beckerle spoke to faculty and staff safely via live video stream. More than 750 people watched online.

In her address, Dr. Beckerle acknowledged the professional and personal impacts the COVID-19 pandemic is having on us all—from health and safety concerns of our front-line providers and staff as well as patients and caregivers, to budgetary pressures resulting from the slowed economy. As fiscal uncertainty continues, she emphasized HCI leadership’s decision-making priorities, consistent with the broader University of Utah:

  • People and talent first
  • Fairness and compassion
  • Transparency

Reflecting on the past year, Dr. Beckerle noted HCI’s new Vision and updated Principles:

Passionate individuals and teams
delivering a cancer-free frontier
through scientific discovery and human touch
Patient and community first
United effort
Excellence in all we do

She also shared the exemplary growth and ongoing clinical excellence of HCI. For example, between 1999 and 2019, the number of patients served at HCI has increased more than 22-fold each year. Patients from surrounding Mountain West states have also increased dramatically in the last 20 year. As the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the region, HCI has a responsibility to serve this region. Dr. Beckerle highlighted three specific areas of excellence:

On the research front, Dr. Beckerle noted HCI recently submitted its competing renewal for its Comprehensive Cancer Center designation, led by Cornelia Ulrich, PhD, HCI Cancer Center Director—a process that occurs every five years, and that required many months and many dedicated faculty and administrative staff. She also highlighted recent high-impact research from HCI investigators:

Dr. Beckerle also focused on HCI’s education and outreach efforts, with an emphasis on equity and inclusion. This included spotlighting the PathMaker Programs, a $2.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute’s Youth Enjoy Science (YES) Research Education Program, and HCI’s new Cancer Screening and Education Bus.   

Looking toward the future during these uncertain times, Dr. Beckerle encouraged all HCI faculty and staff to preserve the strong culture that makes HCI unique, and always prioritize actions and investments that support our Vision. Specifically, she reminds us to take care of ourselves and others, be flexible and seek to be as comfortable as possible with ambiguity, and—importantly—to reach out for help when needed.

In closing, our CEO gave us these three words for reflection:

  • Fortitude: finding strength in the face of challenge
  • Aptitude: harvesting new insights from this experience
  • Gratitude: appreciating the fortunate aspects of our lives

cancer research cancer care covid-19 coronavirus

Cancer touches all of us.

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