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A Closer Look

June 15, 2015 | Josh Brown

Photo by Susan Urmy

Lauren Hackett doesn’t consider her personal experience with cancer unique. Throughout her life, the disease has touched the lives of friends, relatives and colleagues. Hackett’s mother won a fight against breast cancer two decades ago, but lost her battle with acute myeloid leukemia in 2010. “We all have similar stories,” she said.

Hackett joined Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in September 2011 and serves as its executive ­director of administration, overseeing all aspects of Vanderbilt-Ingram’s business, financial, human resources, administration and operations and helping develop the center’s overall strategy and planning. “Our team works to keep the trains running on time,” she said.

The infrastructure supported by administration at the Cancer Center is a crucial component of helping physicians, scientists and clinical investigators at VICC reach their goals to further science and medicine and improve patient care.

“The creativity and innovation that happens at Vanderbilt are what is so great about being here,” Hackett said. “Whether that translates to new diagnostic tools or treatment options for our patients or a new understanding of this disease, we are an integral, yet quiet part of the team.”

While her training and more than 20 years of experience at National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers have provided Hackett with the skills to help VICC succeed, her experience seeing lives transformed has provided much of the energy she brings to the role.

“Being touched very young by this disease in many different ways fuels my passion and the connection and understanding that what we do here really can be impactful and make a difference,” she said.

A Boston native, Hackett came to Vanderbilt after spending seven years at New York University’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, where she helped build and expand the operations from the ground up. Before that, she spent a combined 14 years in similar roles at Yale University’s Cancer Center and at Rockefeller University.

Her leadership and experiences were critical during Vanderbilt-Ingram’s recent renewal application for its designation as a NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“You start planning the submission of the Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) about 18 months ahead of the deadline,” Hackett said. As part of that process, Hackett’s team worked tirelessly to coordinate, draft and review key elements of the grant application and analyze volumes of data that help showcase the Cancer Center’s accomplishments during the past five years.

The efforts to produce the grant application and prepare for the NCI peer-reviewed site visit bring the entire Center forward across all disciplines, Hackett said.

“The opportunity to work with everyone to get to that day is such a strong glue for all of us as a Center, moving into the next five years with new discoveries every day,” she said. This is why it is so important, because so many lives depend on the translation of new discoveries here at our Cancer Center, Hackett said.

Everyone knows friends, relatives and colleagues who are fighting for their lives against the illness. “There’s so much work to still be done.

– Josh Brown