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 Peter WT Pisters, M.D., to lead our clinical operations teams in carrying out MD Anderson’s strategic and business objectives. I partner closely with our physician and administrative leaders, as well as the chief medical executive, chief scientific officer, chief financial officer, and other chiefs and executives to advise the president and make decisions about strategy and operational adjustments.

My job is to provide the leadership, management and vision to ensure the proper operational controls, administrative and reporting procedures, and people systems are in place to ensure we’re delivering cancer care efficiently and effectively. I’m focused not only on what we do, but on how we do what we do.

What do you most enjoy away from work?

Being with my family is the No. 1 priority. My husband, a retired transplant surgeon, and I love spending time with our kids, here and abroad – whether we’re quiet at home or on an adventure on the water or the slopes. We also have our extended crew, which includes our dogs, cats, birds and four ducks (and yes, one is named Donald and another is Daisy).

How did you get your crew to Houston? 

My husband and I drove the 24 hours, each with one of our twins and all of the animals within the two cars. It was loud, but went much better than we could have ever imagined. We were just glad we weren’t pulled over! 

What do you plan to accomplish at MD Anderson

Years from now, I’d like people to say, “She came here to support who we are and propel what we do for patients and families.” One of my mentors gave me a framed quote by Vince Lombardi that says, “We are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it because in the process we will catch excellence.” I know that this team of 21,000 will “catch excellence.” Initially, my focus is on learning and building strong relationships across the organization. I want to get to know MD Anderson’s people and processes, and to earn people’s trust through my actions.

What has working in health care taught you? 

Caring for patients is an honor and a privilege. When people come to us at the most vulnerable times in their lives and trust us to do right by them – we can never take that for granted. I also have learned that it takes a team and this is a team sport. There are no single heroes in health care, because each person on the team contributes their time, knowledge and skill to serve others and receives the same back from those they work with to serve our patients. That combination of commitment, expertise and drive comes together in a unique and profound way to create great results, momentous experiences and a few miracles along the way. I’ve already witnessed these elements and the strength of MD Anderson’s team and look forward to fostering the trust, empowerment and celebration that strong teams thrive on.

If you designed an inspirational poster, what would it say? 

“The future is not something we enter. The future is something we create.” This sentiment resonates with me because it reaffirms that we always have choices and are in control of our reaction to changes around us. In the past decade, MD Anderson has watched and experienced numerous changes and has used those experiences to grow and continue to serve its mission. MD Anderson’s spirit does not rest until we end cancer – no matter what. And the good news is that we are in control of what happens next.

A longer version of this story originally appeared in Messenger, MD Anderson’s quarterly publication for employees, volunteers, retirees and their families.

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