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PEOPLE COME FIRST

Healthcare executive Annette Walker has moved from Providence St. Joseph Health to the City of Hope. And she’s taking her Catholic faith with her

By Larry Urish     6/27/2018

It’s never been difficult to list leaders in Corporate America who wound up being little more than sharks in power suits. Their deceptive, greedy feeding frenzies hurt big business and, by extension, millions of people. Ivan Boesky, Bernie Madoff, Kenneth Lay and John Stumpf come to mind. Their personal portfolios are far more important than people.  

On the other hand, the Annette Walkers of the world are all about people. Every decision Walker has made throughout her career as a businesswoman, visionary and leader has been carried out with a different kind of bottom line: its impact on individuals. And those who know Walker understand that this humanitarian mindset that informs everything she’s does and everything she stands for is a result of her faith as a devoted Catholic.  

“Big projects come and go, but people and community really matter,” Walker says. “We’re taught to believe in the dignity and worthiness of every individual. I try to remember this every day.” 

As president of St. Joseph Health, she helped oversee the organization’s 2016 merger with Providence Health & Services. And while serving as president of strategy for the merged organization, Providence St. Joseph Health, she was instrumental in positioning it toward a successful future. Now, after 13 years, Walker will begin a new stage of her career, as president of City of Hope Orange County. She’ll start there on July 9. 

Walker has garnered more than her share of honors. Last year alone, she was named one of 130 Women Leaders to Know by Becker’s Hospital Review, as well as Executive of the Year by the Los Angeles Business Journal. In addition, she received the Orange Catholic Foundation’s Bishop’s Award for Exemplary Business Integrity and in 2016 was named Innovator of the Year by the Orange County Business Journal. 

While at Providence St. Joseph Health, Walker played a significant role in the development of Health 2.0, a strategic plan that went into effect last January. “We took a big step back and spent a long time assessing the environment and ministry across all seven states,” she says. “We asked ourselves how we can best benefit the community and be sustainable in today’s healthcare environment.” Health 2.0 includes an ongoing rapid expansion of ambulatory care – a variety of same-day medical procedures performed in outpatient settings – and a push toward alternative revenue streams.  

Walker was also instrumental in the creation of St. Joseph’s Wellness Corners. “They’re located in high-density corporate environments and residential communities, like apartment buildings,” she says. “Wellness Corners address a much broader definition of health care: like exercise, nutritional counseling and chiropractic care.” 

As president of City of Hope Orange County, Walker will oversee the development of its $200 million cancer center. She’ll continue to bring all of the City of Hope’s resources out into the community. 

“In addition to the new center, there will be other access points in the county to provide care closer to home,” says Robert Stone, president and CEO of City of Hope. “Annette is such a key part of this mission because she’s community oriented. She knows the region, and she really cares about the region.” 

While Walker has remained adaptable throughout her career as the health care industry has evolved, one thing that hasn’t changed is her faith.  

“I was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph, the founders of St. Joseph Health,” she says. “And I learned that with Catholic health care, if something we do won’t help the community, we won’t do it.” 

Throughout her career, the value and dignity of the worker, one of the cornerstones of Catholic social teaching, has continually affected her decisions as a high-level executive. “In all of my jobs,” she says, “I was taught to be a leader who inspires, has great plans and is accountable.” 

Sr. Kit Gray, director of Mission Integration and Ongoing Formation for Christ Cathedral, concurs. “Annette has taken all that Catholicism teaches to heart. She’s been open to God’s will. While at Providence St. Joseph Health, she engaged thousands of their employees in shaping their new mission. In addition, she’s been serving on Bishop Vann’s Finance Council.” 

“One attraction about the City of Hope is that, like St. Joseph, it’s such a worthy mission that makes the world a better place for people,” Walker says. “That’s such a big element in Catholicism. Working in health care has given me such a prime opportunity to act on helping others.  

“Another thing that our faith teaches us is that if you’ve been given a lot of gifts, you must share them with others – especially those less fortunate,” she adds. “Ultimately work is not about making money; it’s to help alleviate suffering and improve lives.” 

“Annette is masterful of big-picture thinking and envisioning the future for the good of others,” Sr. Kit says. “She’s always asked, ‘How can health care work better for more people?’” It’s a question I’m sure she’ll apply to the City of Hope, as an extension of the healing ministry of Jesus.”  

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