Elevating the Next Generation of Cancer Center Leaders


AACI extends its gratitude to the cancer center colleagues who attended the 2024 AACI Leadership Diversity and Development Workshop, March 12-13. The workshop drew nearly 100 attendees from 85 cancer centers. Reflecting the diverse pool of talented emerging leaders who are accelerating progress against cancer at AACI’s member institutions, 71 percent of attendees identified as female, 31 percent were Black or African American, and 18 percent were Hispanic.   

A panel discussion on navigating the pathway to cancer center leadership featured Elisa Rodriguez, PhD, MS, vice president and associate director of diversity, equity and inclusion, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center; Yolanda Sanchez, PhD, director and CEO, University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center; AACI Vice President/President-elect Joann B. Sweasy, PhD, director, Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center; and AACI President Robert A. Winn, MD, director, VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center. The discussion was moderated by AACI Executive Director Jennifer W. Pegher, MA, MBA.

Keynote talks were delivered by Karen Winkfield, MD, PhD, executive director, Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance, and Ted A. James, MD, surgical oncologist and cancer center medical director, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Dr. Winkfield spoke about the importance of having a career that fills you with passion and feeds your soul. Dr. James offered insights on transforming health care by promoting patient-centered care and fostering positive workplace culture, as well as enhancing the value in health care through leadership, teamwork, and clinical innovation.

The workshop portions of the two-day event were led by Dolores Bernardo, Makena Leadership Group; David Chow, Leading Together; Christy Uffelman, EDGE Leadership Solutions; and Ephraim Schachter, Schachter Consulting LLC. 

In describing how to lead with presence and impact, Bernardo highlighted the following aspects of presence: passion, confidence, authenticity, enthusiasm, and being attuned to oneself and others. Chow talked about the differences between management and leadership, explaining that leadership is more about aligning with people, establishing direction, and motivating and inspiring.

Uffelman spoke about the need to make bold moves and new beginnings in our lives, emphasizing the value of doing things that make us uncomfortable and afraid in order to grow. In exploring ways to acquire influential communication skills, Schacter presented the SOAR technique – Situation, Opportunity, Actions, Results. Using the technique makes a listener want to know more and helps to keep a cancer center leader’s communication concise and structured.

AACI extends its deep appreciation to Merck, Bristol Myers Squibb, and J & J Innovative Medicine, for their generous support of the workshop and commitment to training future cancer center leaders.

View Photos From the Workshop