Influential Leaders

Dee Anna Smith

CEO, Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute
Recognition Year(s): 2021
Area of Impact: Healthcare or Wellness
School: Seaver College, Pepperdine University
Location: United States

As the CEO of Sarah Cannon, the Cancer Institute of HCA Healthcare, Dee Anna Smith leads a multinational organization that unites an international team of oncology researchers and practitioners. Besides her professional work, Smith has been instrumental in building connections and removing barriers between faith communities in her hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. She is also a member of the board of directors of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center and the Nashville Health Care Council.

In recognition of her distinguished career, Smith received Pepperdine University’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2019, and she was named a 2013 Health Care Hero by the Nashville Business Journal in the chief executive officer category.

Smith's undergraduate accounting degree at Pepperdine University helped her secure a job with a Big Four accounting firm. Her role as an auditor and CPA gave her an appreciation for the power of technology and its potential to improve clinical research. It also encouraged her to apply her entrepreneurial vision to medical progress. Smith went on to found two companies focused on clinical trial services: the first startup was acquired by Oracle, and the second was acquired by HCA Healthcare to become a part of Sarah Cannon’s research platform.

Prior to being appointed CEO of Sarah Cannon, Smith served as president of Sarah Cannon Research Institute Services and chief information officer for the company. Their network consists of more than 70 treatment centers in the U.S. and U.K. The researchers and practitioners find innovative techniques and cutting-edge delivery modes to create new therapies, treat cancer patients, and assess therapeutic efficacy to inform future research. The institute’s impact is far-reaching: its clinical trials have contributed to a majority of approved cancer therapies over the last decade, and it provides state-of-the-art cancer care close to home for hundreds of thousands of patients.

Smith is also committed to preparing future leaders. She serves as chair of the Pepperdine board of regents and actively contributes to the continued improvement of the accounting program in Pepperdine’s Seaver College. She is also an inspiring speaker at campus events. Whether in addressing accounting graduates in 2017 or giving the commencement address to Seaver graduates in 2019, Smith’s message is direct and effective in explaining the importance of being an ethical and empathetic leader-manager.