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The first time I blogged for the BC Cancer Foundation was in February 2016; I’d been on the job at BC Cancer for only a few months. Time has flown by; I cannot believe I’ve been here three years.

I sometimes think about three key things attracted me to this position. The first was the people who worked at BC Cancer: terrific, caring, committed people. They had been through a rough patch for a number of years, with many changes in leadership, but had remained committed to the values and mission of this organization. That’s what sustained us during those difficult times.

Second, I felt that the structure of BC Cancer as a truly integrated provincial cancer program provided a unique opportunity for both care and research. Finally, I was very pleasantly surprised to discover a passionate and highly successful Foundation that supported our work.

The three years that I’ve been president of BC Cancer has only reaffirmed that my observations were correct.

Laying the groundwork for excellence in cancer care

Once I arrived, I knew we had to rebuild the leadership. If you count the vice-presidents, the provincial program leads and all of our regional leaders, in total that’s about 30 leaders. About 25 of them are new, and had to be recruited, and some of the positions are new.

I’m particularly proud of the team we’ve built, and how effectively everyone works together. What has been really gratifying is that when we’ve posted these positions, top people at BC Cancer have applied. They’ve been willing to step forward and participate in running and rebuilding the organization.

With all that turnover in leadership between 2009 and 2015, what had been lost for BC Cancer had been the longer-range strategic and capital planning. It was critical that as part of a new team we created an executive portfolio for Strategic and Capital Planning, which is ably led by Stephanie Aldridge.

Once our team was built we were able to create a policy paper, which lays out a vision for what a good cancer system in B.C would look like; and more recently both a five-year plan for cancer in B.C. and a 10-year capital plan for what investments we need to make to provide the cancer services the population of B.C. requires. Those things are now all in place and we are working on strategies for implementation. 

From the get-go, it was not difficult to identify some of the critical problems, such as the need for longer-range planning. What takes more time is getting some of these things done, particularly when a mandate for provincial cancer control necessitates engaging all the key stakeholders.

Collaboration key to enhancing  research and care 

The Indigenous Cancer Plan is a great example of what can be achieved when we work collaboratively with all the key stakeholders. Other initiatives, such as restarting the recent BC Cancer Summit and our BC Cancer Excellence Awards, have been very well received and we plan to continue holding the Summit.

I’ll say this: I have never been bored here.

There’s always a lot going on. It’s been fun, and there is a great spirit in the organization. It’s been important, it’s been meaningful and it’s been rewarding. I’d like to particularly acknowledge our close partnership with the BC Cancer Foundation and its CEO, Sarah Roth.

They are doing great work to stimulate tremendous community support for care and research at BC Cancer. The recent anonymous donation of $18.3 million, the wonderful story of bottle-and-can-collecting Gia Tran, and having one of our most successful Inspiration Galas last month are just three examples of how the Foundation and its donors are making an impact.

Looking ahead, I would like to get out more – to our centres, to see our staff. I am fortunate to continue to have a small clinical practice; working in the system, seeing patients, and being involved in the day-to-day work of BC Cancer. It reminds me what’s important.