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by Dagny Stuart | Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, 8:29 AM
Forward is the only direction in which Anna Rodriguez likes to travel. Rodriguez, who holds a BSN, a Master of Science in Nursing and a Master of Health Administration, is leading the oncology nursing enterprise as Associate Nursing Officer at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC), having replaced Carol Eck, who spent more than 30 years in nursing leadership at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC).
Oncology is the specialty that touches Rodriguez’s heart and drew her to Nashville.
“I have many relatives with breast cancer. My mom passed away of breast cancer a year ago. There is just that personal experience. I understand what families are going through and want to make sure that someone helps them.”
In addition to the medical care “there’s the psychosocial aspect of the patient’s care where we need to address psychological, social and financial needs.”
She is working with other VICC executives to ensure that patients have the support needed to navigate through the complexities of cancer care throughout the care continuum.
Born and raised in the Philippines, Rodriguez moved to the United States after college to work in a Chicago nursing home but soon decided to explore wider horizons in health care.
“I knew early in my career that I wanted to be in nursing management, so I was very strategic about the career opportunities I took,” Rodriguez said.
She says she has been fortunate to have great mentors throughout her career. She was encouraged by one mentor to transition from long-term care to an acute care rehabilitation hospital. She later worked in the stem cell transplant unit at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
Rodriguez, who is known for her high energy and focused determination, has often chosen to pursue a new specialty or a seemingly lofty management post, no matter how difficult the journey appeared to be.
“When somebody tells me I can’t do it, I will prove to you that I can,” Rodriguez said.
She spent eight years at Northwestern, an academic medical center, starting as a staff nurse and moving up to patient care manager. Then she accepted a post as director of Oncology at Chicago’s Mount Sinai Hospital, an urban critical access hospital serving less affluent patients.
“That opportunity gave me the ability to manage the entire cancer service line: the inpatient unit, outpatient clinic and infusion center, clinical research and cancer registry. I wanted to ensure that even in urban, critical access settings we provide the same quality cancer care as we do in university settings.”
In her next post at Presence Resurrection Medical Center, she served as director of Oncology, Women’s and Children’s programs, Rehabilitation Services and Pain Center.
Rodriguez was excited about the opportunity to return to an academic medical center and a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center like VICC.
“I’m really humbled by the opportunity to work alongside our world-renowned scientists and faculty. It is a great honor,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez arrived at what she calls “an exciting time” at VICC, which is implementing the Oncology Care Model and is also transitioning, along with the rest of VUMC, to the EpicLeap clinical, administrative and billing software system. She hopes EpicLeap will give nurses more time to spend with patients instead of paperwork.
Just as previous nursing leaders have helped her, Rodriguez is determined to “pay it forward” by mentoring VICC nurses. She has authored several articles in peer-reviewed nursing journals and book chapters in oncology nursing textbooks. She hopes to work with the nursing team to enhance VICC’s reputation for academic excellence and “make us the thought leaders in cancer nursing.”
When she isn’t working, Rodriguez enjoys exploring Tennessee with her husband, Joseph, and daughters Kathleen, 14, and Kirsten, 12.
Dagny Stuart, (615) 936-7245
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