SW INSPIRE: Lisa Smith
Regional Vice President, American Cancer Society
BY CAROLINE TISDELL | PHOTO BY KELLY KANE
Humbling and rewarding experiences have led Lisa Smith to devote the past 15 years to the American Cancer Society. She didn’t hesitate to make ACS her professional home once she experienced the power of people fighting cancer…fighting for their lives.
The ACS is an organization that gives tremendous support as well as hope to millions of people who are fighting cancer. “It’s not about the millions of people we help, its about that one person who calls our 800 number in the middle of the night breaking down for the first time because they don’t have to pretend to be brave while their spouse sleeps,” said Smith. The ACS reaches out to many people who need to be reassured that there is still hope. “It’s about that one person who gets a free wig or a ride to treatment or who enters a clinical trial their doctor didn’t know about.”
Smith has held the position as regional vice president for the last 12 years. This position allows her to oversee everything the organization does. She is involved with raising money, advocating for policy change, educating the community on staying healthy, and promoting their screening guidelines. But most importantly she offers support and services to cancer patients and their families. “I supervise 20 people and feel my most important role is to create a positive supportive environment for staff to be successful and do their best work.”
Volunteers, staff and community partners of the ACS worked vigorously to educate the public and their elected officials on the health risks associated with exposure to second hand smoke and the benefits of creating a smoke free environment. Everyone involved with ACS was ecstatic to see that since the passage of the New York State Clean Indoor Air Law in 2003. Since then, the adult smoking rate in New York state has dropped from 22 percent to 16 percent.
The ACS labels cancer survivors as their VIPs. These VIPs who have battled cancer inspire and motivate everyone that is involved with the organization. Many cancer patients have touched Smith’s life through their bravery, perseverance, and grace. However, there is one memory Smith has held close to her heart. She encountered a mother whose daughter was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. The mother had already lost her sister to this disease but she knew that she had to be strong and fearless because she had to take care of her daughter and grandchildren. Within six months the mother found out that she, too, had breast cancer. It was because of this woman’s courage and persistence that both were able to conquer this difficult time. Today, both mother and daughter are VIPs for their strength in beating cancer. The mother became a volunteer patient navigator for the organization where she meets patients in treatment centers and offers them support and services that helped her and her daughter.
“This is one of many great stories of people I have met,” Smith said. “But sometimes the stories don’t end as well, sometimes all we do isn’t enough, sometimes the best science has to offer isn’t enough.”