Getting to know chief operating officer Rosanna Morris

This past April, Rosanna Morris joined MD Anderson as chief operating officer (COO). In this role, she  oversees our inpatient and outpatient operations to ensure we deliver high quality care for our cancer patients and their families. Prior to joining MD Anderson, Morris served as president at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Michigan, a 1,100-bed academic medical center affiliated with the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine. She’s a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree and more than two decades of executive hospital leadership, including roles as a health system chief operating officer and chief nursing officer. Morris previously served in several executive leadership roles, including ad interim chief executive officer at Nebraska Medicine, an academic health system in Omaha. We spoke with Morris to learn more about her. Here’s what she wants our patients and their families to know. What brought you to MD Anderson? The people and the mission. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to positively and tangibly impact a disease, let alone cancer, on a global level. Like so many people here, I’m deeply committed to ending cancer and excited to join an extraordinary team of 21,000. What are your first impressions of MD Anderson? Southern hospitality is real. People have been so welcoming. I’ve enjoyed meeting so many experts who are aligned around a single purpose – there’s incredible power in that. We truly have pioneering spirits at all levels here, and I’m proud to be a member of such a driven team. Also, MD Anderson is truly one of a kind on so many levels.  What does a COO do? I work closely with President...

What does a patient escort do?

Navigating one of the largest cancer centers in the world can be daunting, especially if you’ve just had a medical procedure or treatment. But Patient Transportation is here to help you get around MD Anderson.  Each day, patient escorts connect with patients to ensure they arrive at the right places for tests, procedures and other destinations. On average, they handle about 17 transports per shift. Additionally, they assist when patients are discharged from the hospital – often as the last smiling face a patient sees before exiting our doors to return home.  A responsive process to help our patients All requests for patient transportation services are made through our electronic health record, which automatically forwards the request to a dispatcher in Patient Transportation.  The dispatcher reviews the information, which includes the patient’s name and medical record number, origin, destination, any equipment needed and other pertinent details.  “Once we’ve confirmed the information, the assignment is sent to a patient escort through an app on their phones,” says Isamar Andrade, a dispatcher who worked for more than two years as a patient escort before moving into her current role.  “A dispatcher has to understand all of the dynamics required to move a patient and must effectively communicate any issues or delays.” Upon arriving at the pick-up location, the patient escort notifies the nurse or patient services coordinator of their arrival and verifies the patient identification information is correct before providing the handoff and transferring the patient. Responsiveness is vital because patients and our colleagues rely on them. The patient escorts have a specific amount of time to acknowledge the call, gather...

Stage IV nasopharyngeal cancer survivor: I’m almost completely back to normal

Looking at me now, people would never suspect I’d ever had anything serious wrong with me. I walk five miles every day and take the stairs up to my third-floor apartment with ease. But in April 2018, I was so weak I could barely get out of bed. And I couldn’t take more than a few steps without sitting down to rest. At the time, I was undergoing nine weeks of very strong chemotherapy for stage IV nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a rare type of head and neck cancer and skull base tumor. I still had 33 doses of radiation therapy and more chemotherapy to go. When I’d been diagnosed a few months earlier, the tumor in my skull base was so large I could barely hear out of my left ear. My left eye had turned completely inward. My recovery since then has been nothing short of remarkable. My vision and hearing are both back to normal. I’m about 95% back to where I was, in terms of strength and weight. My scans have shown no evidence of disease since August 2018. And I owe this incredible recovery to Dr. Shirley Su, a head and neck surgeon and skull base specialist, and her team at MD Anderson. My nasopharyngeal cancer symptoms I first started showing skull base tumor symptoms in late 2017. My left ear felt clogged when I got back from a business trip. But that can happen sometimes on long flights, so I thought nothing of it. After a few weeks, the blockage still hadn’t cleared up. Over the course of the next month, I went to a...

Ovarian cancer survivor: 4 lessons I learned from treatment

One of the best pieces of advice I got before starting chemotherapy to treat stage III ovarian cancer was from my oncologist, Dr. Aaron Shafer. He said it was important to continue working and spending time with my friends and family, to keep my life as normal as possible. Otherwise, I could fall into a negative mindset, which would only make my treatment feel harder. I believe staying positive is just as important as the drugs that are administered. So, I followed his advice. And except for the days on which I had chemotherapy infusions, I worked the entire time, either from home or in the office. I also didn’t really discuss my treatment at work. It’s not that I was trying to hide it; I was very open if someone asked me about it. I just didn’t want the fact that I had cancer to be the first thing people focused on when they saw or talked to me. I also didn’t want to be treated any differently. That’s why I made it a point to wear a wig any time I left the house. I was losing my hair due to chemotherapy, and the wig gave me confidence I’d be seen as “normal,” since everything else I was going through was anything but. Here are some other lessons I learned during treatment. Letting people help you helps them, too I’m the kind of person who never wants to inconvenience anyone, so I typically do things myself. But I knew I wasn’t going to be at 100% during treatment, and I couldn’t risk running myself into the ground....

Conjunctival melanoma survivor: MD Anderson saved my eye and my life

I’ve always been a bit of an extremist. So, when I learned that skin cancer runs in my mom’s family, I started seeing a dermatologist immediately. And I was vigilant about it, too. I’d literally take off all my clothes and make the doctor look everywhere during my annual exams. It was almost awkward. I also became the “mean” mom — the one who makes everyone else’s kid wear a hat and sunscreen while they’re playing outside. So, when I was diagnosed with conjunctival melanoma — a rare type of eye cancer — in February 2015, I wasn’t really concerned about losing my vision. I was only 30 at the time and my daughter was just 15 months old. But after Googling it — I know: the exact wrong thing to do — I was afraid I was going to die. So I was like, “I’ve got two eyes. Just take the bad one out. Let’s go. ” Thankfully, Dr. Bita Esmaeli, my doctor at MD Anderson, was much calmer and more rational about it than I was. She told me, “Look, we don’t really have to do that anymore. And we have many other effective options to try first, before removing your eye.” As it turns out, she was right. My sole eye cancer symptom Ironically, I had one eye cancer symptom for half my life before I finally saw a doctor. I’d been poked in the eye during a basketball game when I was 15, and it formed a small blood blister on my right cornea. The blister eventually went away, but it left behind a little...