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Five Minutes with Joanne Smith

Published: October 24, 2008
Joanne Smith

Image by Matthew Gilson

What has been your greatest accomplishment?

I don’t think I have had it yet. I think my greatest achievement will ultimately be the legacy that I leave in my own family with my husband, Rory Repicky, ’94.

Realistically speaking, as a mother of two young children and also a contributor in a great organization with impact on the world in ways that affect human ability, I think my greatest achievement is juggling both of these things on a daily basis.

What would you say has been your most humbling experience?

It’s every time I get the chance to look into the eyes of a patient, past his or her physical condition, and see his or her spirit, heart, ambition, and hope. Every time, this is absolutely the most humbling experience. It keeps me very grounded.

What do you wish you had known at the start of your career?

You always wish you had the maturity and insight that you now have. But the twists and turns of learning are what makes us who we are. I don’t have regrets because I’ve learned from every experience. What I am glad I had at the start of my career—and I still hold—is a sense of curiosity and inquiry.

What GSB course — or faculty member — still affects the way you do business?

The theories in leadership course taught by [professor emeritus of business administration] Marvin Zonis had an impact on me then and now in relation to how I think about and understand leadership. In a highly unusual and effective way, Zonis melded historical, political, behavioral, and psychoanalytical insights as we worked to understand leaders. His perspective was always global, yet we analyzed our subjects on the deeply human and individual basis. Through both theory and real-world illustrations, he heightened our insight into psychodynamics and how one can use certain techniques to motivate strong followership. Moreover, Zonis required powerful introspection on the part of every student as a requirement for us to function at a higher level as a leader. Zonis provided rich footing for my current professional journey and fantastic leadership utility in the ideas conveyed through this course.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

Assessing and doing what only I should do; focusing on where I can make the most difference amidst daily competing demands. I believe Henry Kissinger said the secret to his success in the State Department during years of foreign policy crisis was doing this very thing.

Organizationally, I have a sense of urgency. I see where we need to go and I want to take action, and it’s hard juggling how fast and how far I can test or push or move the organization. That’s very different than being a physician, where you’re dealing with one patient: You assess the patient, look at the data, and then you act.

Thirdly, I am always on the prowl for talent — great talent — and it’s hard.

Finally, I also think it’s sometimes hard to say no in health care; clinicians tend to want to say yes.

What’s the best part of your job?

Seeing the impact this organization is making on lives and working with a team that has shared values, passion, and a sense of urgency about moving RIC toward a better future. It’s also fantastic to engage with an academic community and civic leadership that shares enthusiasm for what we’re doing.

If you had to choose another line of work, what would it be?

I think I would be a ballad singer — not Janis Joplin but maybe Melissa Etheridge or Sarah McLachlan — not for being in the limelight or onstage, but for the creative and sort of the spiritual process of that art form. But don’t ask me to sing because I can’t sing. —P.H.

Last Updated 5/14/09