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EPISODE#153
OC CATHOLIC RADIO: GUEST IS ANNETTE WALKER OF CITY OF HOPE

Host Rick Howick interviews guests on a variety of topics. On this week’s program, Rick welcomes Annette Walker to our Tower of Hope studios. A recent article in the OC Catholic stated the following:

“City of Hope has announced the appointment of Annette Walker as CEO for its new cancer research and treatment center in Orange County. Walker will lead the development of a $200-million best-in-class facility planned for Irvine and will guide the expansion of City of Hope throughout the region.”

Annette is here to tell us all about her hopes and dreams for the presence of City of Hope in Orange County!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 9/22/18

PEOPLE COME FIRST

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.”  

CITY OF HOPE APPOINTS ANNETTE WALKER PRESIDENT OF NEW O.C. CANCER CENTER

City of Hope has announced the appointment of Annette Walker as CEO for its new cancer research and treatment center in Orange County. Walker will lead the development of a $200-million best-in-class facility planned for Irvine and will guide the expansion of City of Hope throughout the region.

Robert Stone, president and CEO of City of Hope, said of Walker: “She shares City of Hope’s vision to provide tomorrow’s discoveries to the people who need them today. She knows the value of bringing technologically advanced care, physician expertise, and clinical research closer to patients, families and local employers.”

Walker served as president of strategy for Providence St. Joseph Health and chief executive of St. Joseph Health. During her 13-year tenure she led many initiatives including the introduction Wellness Corners which now bring more convenient healthcare services into the communities where people live and work.

Rod Hochman, president and CEO of Providence St. Joseph, called Walker a “gifted strategist” that strengthened Catholic health care.

LEADING A MINISTRY

Annette M. Walker is a visionary. She doesn’t see celestial beings, but she does make it a practice every morning to commune with the divine through coffee and prayer. As president of Strategy for Providence St. Joseph Health, she is charged with keeping an eye on the future of medical service for the third-largest health system in the country. Walker leads from a position of strength – her Catholic faith. 

Walker grew up in Pomona within a large Catholic family with a number of relatives who were priests and nuns. Long before she came to St. Joseph Health, she had formed a deep affinity for the sisters of St. Joseph of Orange. They taught at her elementary school, St. Madeline, and she remained close to them through high school at Pomona Catholic. She completed her undergraduate studies at Loyola Marymount, and received a Masters from the University of Minnesota. If Annette Walker had a baptismal contract it would have a non-compete clause on Catholicism. 

“The moment that most defined me happened in my junior year at LMU,” recalls Walker. “I became pregnant. Being unmarried, having a baby alone, and keeping her, established the extent of my faith in God and his goodness. I’m so glad I trusted and felt God’s hand in my life. After that experience, I have never been afraid.” Chuck and Annette have been married for 37 years and have been blessed with five more children and 10 grandchildren. 

The next significant turning point came early in her career. “I was working as a lab director and was forced to lay off hard-working individuals because the leaders had failed to take care of the future of the organization.” This insight, that leaders must be vigilant in monitoring the health and sustainability of the organization for the good of everyone, made a lasting impression.  

It is no wonder, then, that Annette Walker’s favorite saint is Joan of Arc. “Who would have listened to her – a mere child from the country. But she was fearless! I think she is a magnificent role model, I’m never afraid in business.”  

She worked for other health care systems before joining St. Joseph’s in 2005. “In most corporations there is a lot of societal pressure to keep faith at home and the higher you go in management the less you can express your faith,” says Walker. “At St. Joseph’s you are not only allowed to bring your whole self with you to work, it’s expected. I feel that I’m leading a ministry, not just a hospital.” Walker’s leadership was instrumental in bringing St. Joseph Health and Providence Health & Services together as Providence St. Joseph Health in 2016.

In practical terms, integrating faith into work elevates everything from the mundane to the highly strategic in terms of how it serves a higher purpose. Making hard decisions isn’t easier when they are made in the context of Catholic social teaching. “We do make hard decisions, but we try to make them in the best, most just way possible. We use discernment to find the best, most just decision.” As an example, Walker points to a decision a few years ago to make changes in the employee benefits packages. “We had to make a 20% cut, but we also considered who was disproportionately affected by the cut. We asked ourselves: have we been just in mitigating how this affects the community?” 

Walker says that a Corporate Strategist is the person who is the caretaker and architect of the future success of an organization. “We look at what is going on around us – for example what does the merger of CVS and Aetna mean for our business?”

In a world where women who embrace life, have big families, a strong marriage to one man and an enduring faith in God are dismissed, Annette Walker is a warrior for the counter-culture. “Who I married made a big difference because we have the same values and are clearly aligned. I was told I can’t have all these children and a career. As soon as we had our third child, people started to comment, when we had more than four they got downright rude.” It wasn’t easy and for most of the time she was raising her children, she wasn’t a senior executive. But it not only can be done, it is well worth it.  

One of the first things one notices upon entering her office is a desk placard, not with her name or title but with a simple directive: “Let all that you do be done in love.” 1Cor 16:14. It takes real strength to lead with love.