Farewell from Carole Renouf, CEO of Melanoma Institute Australia
26 March 2018
I am retiring after just over two years in the role of CEO at MIA to join my only child overseas. The move was not foreseen at this time but it is just too hard to be a whole world away.
It is a great privilege to have an organisation placed in your care and to be responsible not only for its safekeeping but also for its enhancement and growth. I use the word ‘care’ deliberately because I think it’s fair to say that is something that has marked my style as a leader – I do care and I take the business of caring for an organisation and its staff, customers and stakeholders extremely seriously (many sleepless nights).
I really hope, as I wrap up over the month of April, that each of you can say you have experienced in some way my quality of care. ‘Quality of care’ are words you may more readily associate with our incredible MIA clinicians, nurses and clinical trials team – in other words, those who are patient-facing – but I would like to think that you might also consider those words in relation to me. I like looking after people and organisations.
Not everything has been attended to but a great, great many things have. The physician’s mantra is “Do no harm”. That is a good start also for a CEO. However, my aim is to leave an organisation better than I found it. A key supporter said to me the other day, “Please don’t let things go backwards now”, which tells me that people can see things have gone forwards, significantly and in the right direction – very reassuring!
There are a number of people I would like to thank who have enabled this.
When I started, I had a very clear vision of what MIA could become and what structures, processes, capabilities and resources would be needed to realise this vision. I worked to build a skilful and professional management team who would buy in to the vision and largely be responsible for bringing it to life. I am confident that this team will not let things go backwards and I will remain forever in their debt for walking so faithfully by my side.
I would like to thank our Board of Directors for also buying into the vision and supporting us to make it happen. Please rest assured the Board has the search for a new CEO well underway. I also thank the Conjoint Medical Directors for working collaboratively with me in a shared leadership model, not an easy task for anyone but the right approach for our organisation.
When you are not a clinician, it is a very difficult challenge to gain the respect of such talented people with such high standards. I believe I have been able to do this and I am very grateful for every moment of sparse time MIA clinicians and/or researchers have chosen to dedicate to me and my staff in order to progress change. Time is the most precious commodity they do not have and so the rarest of gifts they can bestow and when they do that for us, it is a sign of great trust.
Melanoma is a poorly-understood cancer in the community and hence, less well-supported than some other cancers. Trust me, I ran the National Breast Cancer Foundation, so I should know! It was therefore very important to me to learn about and understand the experience of people going through melanoma and its impact on their loved ones and friends. Probably the most meaningful aspect of my role has been meeting patients, their carers and those who have lost someone to melanoma. I wish I could have got out around the country and done more of it.
I don’t think anyone can understand, as the saying goes, until you at least try to “walk a mile in their shoes”, so I made it my business to sit in on clinics at the Poche Centre (obviously with both patient and doctor consent). I was pleased and touched to find that not only did people not mind my being there, but at times I could even help – if only by distracting patients as they were waiting! I have not forgotten any of the patients I sat in with in clinic and I quickly learnt there to what degree melanoma does not discriminate: they were young, old, rich, poor, blue collar, white collar, local, regional, frightened, stoic, and everything in between.
MIA is fortunate in having passionate community fundraisers and volunteers, all motivated by the impact of melanoma on their loved one and in some cases, the loss of that loved one. It has been so helpful to learn from these lay experts in melanoma and where I could, to assuage their pain by engaging them in activity with MIA.
Meeting those who have gone on to become consumer advocates has also been valuable, as it has helped me champion the importance of consumer representation as part of MIA’s governance structure and of consumer input into our research. I have faith that MIA will continue to advance with this: it is best practice and that is what MIA should and does stand for above all else.
My warmest thanks to all who support the Institute in any way – you are an integral part of any success we have. And we had so many of those in 2017, our 60th anniversary year! Our research is going from strength to strength. Now we need to identify why the new drugs don’t work for everybody and how to circumvent this – that’s the next frontier.
My next challenge on a personal level will be to down tools (in terms of paid work, for the first time ever) and improve my sun safety performance when bathed in the abundance of Andalucian sun. Thus far, I have managed to successfully tackle the impenetrable Spanish bureaucracy and win a residency visa against all odds. A friend is convinced I will wind up as an efficiency consultant to the Spanish Government! It will be a new chapter.
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