Last fall, Carol Porter, D.N.P., joined MD Anderson as vice president of Nursing Practice and chief nursing officer. In this role, she provides leadership and administrative oversight to our nursing community, helping them bring the best possible care to our patients and their families during cancer treatment.
We recently spoke with Porter to learn more about her. Here’s what she had to say.
How do you describe yourself?
Honest, trustworthy, organized, devoted and family oriented.
Where are you from?
I was born in New Jersey and lived in Bergen County my entire life. The location was great, being so close to New York City as well as the Jersey Shore. I’ve loved the smells and sounds of the ocean since I was a kid. New Jersey is a nice place to raise a family, which I did. I have one son and two daughters.
What led you to a nursing and health care administration career?
My father encouraged me to go to nursing school. I began my career working as a medical/surgical nurse and then moved into emergency and trauma nursing, which gave me a true appreciation for how fragile life really is. After 15 years, I was promoted to management and began to climb the ranks before being named chief nursing officer at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City in 2005.
What attracted you to MD Anderson?
I was one of the surveyors who visited MD Anderson for a week in 2010 as part of the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet Recognition Program. I was so impressed with the Nursing division and the entire cancer center. When I came in for interviews, I felt I already had some familiarity with MD Anderson and firmly shared our focus and mission.
What’s one thing you would tell people about nursing?
You have to be passionate about patient care to be a nurse because it’s a challenging profession. To support patients at the most vulnerable period of their lives requires you to give up a bit of yourself. I’ve been a nurse for more than 30 years, and at the end of each day I ask myself, “Did I make a difference today?” As long I can think of one scenario where I helped someone, I know I’m contributing to the profession and impacting patients’ lives.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I ran in the 2001 New York City Marathon right after 9/11. Everyone thought the race would be canceled, but it went on. The firefighters had their ladders crossing the streets, and fighter jets were flying above – it was an experience I’ll never forget. Like any nurse, I helped runners who were sick or injured. But I finished the race with my family cheering me on. The next day I went to work wearing heels, and no one believed my story.
How involved are you in nursing education and research?
I believe the role of any leader is to educate and mentor. As a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing, I’m committed to shaping the future of nursing across the nation and globally. Mentoring comes naturally to me. I always seek out people I see a spark in, and I’m proud of my track record of helping people inside and outside of nursing achieve their career goals.
What are you most passionate about?
I really value and am passionate about being a mother. My three children are the core of my being. I also have a 14-month-old granddaughter. I’m so blessed to have a great relationship with my family.
What are some of your hobbies?
I’m an avid landscaper. I enjoy designing flower beds and caring for plants – it’s therapeutic. You simply tend to them, and they give you so much beauty in return. I also dabble in photography.
What’s surprised you most about Houston?
I’ve found Houstonians are quite friendly. I can tell it’s the culture here, and it’s been great to experience such southern hospitality.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in health care?
I’d probably be teaching nursing leadership at a university. But if I had to remove myself from health care completely, I’d definitely own a garden center.
A longer version of this story originally appeared in Messenger, MD Anderson’s quarterly publication for employees, volunteers, retirees and their families.
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