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Talks with Docs: CEO and Cell Biologist Mary Beckerle

Read Time: 4 minutes

Video transcript

All of this is possible because of the amazing people we have, who are here out of a sense of wanting to make a significant contribution to this important purpose and to really serve something greater than themselves

I’m Mary Beckerle. I’m the chief executive officer at Huntsman Cancer Institute.

How did being a scientist prepare you for your role as CEO?

In cell biology, it's an exploration of the unknown and you have to be prepared for things that you hadn't thought of. You have to constantly invent new ways to understand and explore the cell, and I think in in a certain way, that's similar to being a CEO.

What surprises you still about Huntsman Cancer Institute?

The incredible passion and commitment and energy and creativity and engagement of the talent that we have at Huntsman Cancer Institute is just amazing. I really think that we have an incredible culture with great values. All of this is possible because of the amazing people we have who are here out of a sense of wanting to make a significant contribution to this important purpose and to really serve something greater than themselves. It’s awe-inspiring every day.

What sets the patient experience apart at Huntsman Cancer Institute?

When they walk into this place they feel this confidence because of the expertise, but more than that, they feel this love and compassion. I mean they've told me stories about a nurse who took her weekend off and went to sit in infusion with a patient because she knew that patient didn't have a family member. One woman told me that when her husband came in to Huntsman Cancer Institute the nurses always said, and he always said, "oh, I feel like when I’m coming to the hospital, I feel like I'm coming back to a really nice hotel." Right before he died, he had really acute symptoms, and he came into Huntsman Cancer Institute in the middle of the night, or late at night, and the nurses knew he was coming. They had fluffed his pillows and put chocolates on his pillows and when I think about that story I just think that kind of extra special attention, like this person was a person that they knew and they cared for and they cared about and they did something that was really personal.

How have the research and clinical landscape changed throughout your career?

I grew up at a time when there were very few women in science. I can remember many meetings where I was the only woman speaker at a major scientific meeting and what it means for me, is an appreciation that times are changing, that we've become much more as a society open to all the talent in our community. I hope that this applies, not just to women, but also to people of color and the many differences that bring us all together.

What do you enjoy outside of your role as CEO?

I grew up swimming and I love the water. I love to snorkel. I’ve sort of done a little diving, not too much, but I like that too. When I moved to Utah, I learned how to kayak because we don't have any oceans here. So where can you find water with a little bit of wavy action in it? It's on the river and we have great rivers here. So, I learned to kayak. I actually took kayak lessons in the University of Utah HPER building, learned how to roll right there in that pool.

Who would you trade lives with for a day?

Julia Child, because I just love to cook and I love how she was always so joyous about every ingredient that there was.

What do you look forward to in Huntsman Cancer Institute’s future?

I am really interested in some of the innovative things that we're doing to try and bring Huntsman Cancer Institute to where people live. This is happening on a lot of different dimensions, but one program that I'm really excited about is our Huntsman at Home™ program where we're finding through our science, really important new ways to ease the symptom burden for cancer patients and for their providers and to bring the multidisciplinary compassionate state-of-the-art care of Huntsman Cancer Institute to people's homes so that they can be home rather than being in the hospital.

Cancer touches all of us.