Dee Anna Smith

Dee Anna Smith
Dee Anna Smith, Chief Executive Officer
Sarah Cannon Research Institute

Memphis native Dee Anna Smith was first introduced to the healthcare industry as a CPA for accounting giant KPMG. Working with well-known device manufacturer Smith and Nephew further broadened her knowledge of the healthcare business climate.

“Those experiences piqued my interest as to how I could bring more effective business practices and more efficient systems to an industry that had such an impact on all people,” she recalled.

When her husband, Hubie, accepted a coaching position at Belmont, the Smith family relocated to Middle Tennessee. By that point, Smith had already co-founded two companies, Summit Research Solutions and SiteWorks Solutions, to enhance efficiency in the healthcare arena. In 2005, Sarah Cannon Research Institute acquired Summit Research Solutions, and Smith joined the rapidly growing clinical research program as chief information officer. Today, she is at the helm of one of the nation’s leaders in clinical research.

“We’re one of the largest research centers in the country,” Smith said. “Growing a business at the pace of Sarah Cannon Research Institute is incredibly fun and challenging. It is important that we take care of our patients and physicians, as well as deliver on our promises to our pharmaceutical partners, while keeping a close eye on laws and regulations governing this highly regulated industry.”

Her passion for expanded research opportunities links directly back to the patients SCRI serves and her desire to see clinical trials and related drug discovery become a fundamental part of the healthcare continuum.

“In oncology, clinical trials are woven into the fabric of patient care,” she said of creating a comprehensive treatment plan. “In fact, we believe it’s the best way to manage most cancer patients.”

The Phase I Oncology Unit at SCRI has conducted 38 first-in-man trials. Last year, SCRI put 3,500 patients on Phase I through Phase III clinical trials … 2,200 of these patients were enrolled in oncology trials. These statistics put SCRI among the nation’s clinical research leaders.

A key reason SCRI has been able to enroll so many patients is its community-based model, according to Smith. Through SCRI’s large network of affiliated physicians, patients are able to receive cutting-edge care without having to travel to an urban academic medical center.

Flexibility and a willingness to take new approaches have helped Smith keep SCRI nimble. “We must be cognizant of the ever-changing environment of drug discovery and delivery and be willing to make the appropriate strategic moves to stay at the forefront,” she stressed.

Calling on the sports background that is such an integral part of her family, Smith likened her position to that of a coach.

“We’ve got a lot of franchise players,” she said of the growing number of nationally and internationally recognized clinicians affiliated with the SCRI network. “Getting this team moving in the same direction is a primary focus of my efforts,” she continued, adding that she brings a talent for vision and strategy to the depth chart.

When she isn’t working on a game plan for SCRI, Smith and her husband are busy cheering on the home team. Daughters Rachel, 15, and Rebecca, 11, are involved in competitive sports including travel and school teams for volleyball, basketball and soccer. Stepson Adam, 23, is completing his master’s at Lipscomb University.

Unquestionably, it can be busy keeping up with work and home, but Smith said she wouldn’t have it any other way. At the end of each day, she believes she is making a difference in her family’s life and in the lives of the families who discover new hope through Sarah Cannon Research Institute.

May 2008