January 23, 2023
A personal mission to develop leaders to end cancer
BY Michelle Yelton
Courtney Holladay’s connection to MD Anderson’s mission began at age 4 when she learned her mom had ovarian cancer. “I don’t remember much about the experience, but I’m forever grateful to this organization that has given so much to my family and to many others,” she says.
Now a mother of three boys, Holladay says that it means everything to be present in her sons’ lives the way her mom was for her, thanks to her successful treatment at MD Anderson. “If I’m going to spend time away from my children, the reason has to be important and life-changing like the work we do at MD Anderson,” she says.
A career focused on enabling employees to succeed
Holladay didn’t anticipate her life would intersect with MD Anderson after her mom’s cancer treatment, but she desired to work for a mission-oriented organization and she wanted to be a major contributor to its culture and success. “I also wanted to study and understand why some employees thrive in a work environment, but others may not,” says Holladay, who has a Ph.D. in industrial organizational psychology.
Now in her 18th year at MD Anderson, Holladay serves as associate vice president for its Leadership Institute. Using a defined set of characteristics deemed essential to leadership, Holladay leads a team that trains and develops leadership in employees at every level of the organization, from the front lines to executives. The Leadership Institute connects MD Anderson employees to the resources they need to be successful. “I truly believe that people can develop, and our team is here to help them so MD Anderson can achieve its mission to end cancer,” she says.
Developing current and future leaders
Since the Leadership Institute launched in 2018, it has expanded to include research-based, personalized and team-focused curricula and interventions, as well as professional coaching services, mentoring programs, performance management, change enablement support and assessment tools.
In Fiscal Year 2022, more than 7,500 MD Anderson employees devoted more than 40,900 hours to leadership development through the programs offered by the institute. MD Anderson also received the National Center for Healthcare Leadership’s Best Organizations for Leadership Development (BOLD) Award for 2022, which is given every two years to the top health care organizations that demonstrate the strongest evidence-based approaches to leadership development. MD Anderson also received the award in 2020.
Holladay hopes that one day every MD Anderson employee will participate in and be aided by the Leadership Institute. “I enjoy seeing the evolution and growth of people and our organization,” she says. “And I’m looking forward to continuing to show the impact of our programs.”
For Holladay, the greatest impact of all is helping her colleagues thrive in their roles so they can continue to provide life-changing outcomes for families like hers.
I truly believe that people can develop.
Associate Vice President, Leadership Institute