The Interview: Jonathan Watkins, President of City of Hope Cancer Center


From Staff Reports

This month, The Paper visited with Jonathan Watkins, the President of City of Hope Cancer Center for its June Q&A.

Briefly describe yourself and what you do/did.
I’m the President of City of Hope Cancer Center, formerly Cancer Treatment Centers of America. In my role, I’m responsible for the strategic and administrative oversight of City of Hope’s Southeastern market hospital and clinics. I am tasked with leading the market in integrating new and innovative approaches to improve patient care, cost reduction, and community perception. I also serve as the liaison to our national Board of Directors for all items related to market performance. I routinely collaborate with our medical staff, research leaders, and enterprise executives on long-term strategic initiatives aimed at addressing the organization’s mission of improving access to cancer care for all individuals affected by the disease.

Best piece of advice you’ve received.

Tough question: I’ve had the benefit of some amazing mentors throughout my career and have received nuggets of wisdom and advice from them all, so to select a “best piece” is difficult.  I will, however, say that the gem that resonates most at the moment is to be certain to never become so consumed with work, titles, and material things that you neglect your family, particularly your parents!  You never know what tomorrow has in store, so cherish today with them.  My dad’s health is declining so I’ve thought about those words a lot lately.

If I had it to do over.
I would have purchased Bitcoin when it was initially presented to me as an investment opportunity.  In 2016, I was a young healthcare executive working as the Chief Operating Officer of Kaiser Permanente’s Central Valley area. A physician colleague mentioned it to me, and rather than look into it seriously, I wrote it off as a hoax or get-rich-quick scheme.  Well, I looked back a few weeks ago and discovered that a single coin purchased in 2016 for a little over $900 would now be valued at over $67,000!  Definitely wish I had that to do over!

You are going on an extended solo trip. What three albums and three books would you take?
Albums:  Blueprint (Jay-Z), Off the Wall (Michael Jackson), Confessions (Usher).
Books:  Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell), Strength To Love (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), A Promised Land (Barack Obama)

Tell us one thing about yourself that few people know.
I’m extremely afraid of heights. I hide it relatively well, but my heart rate increases whenever I’m forced to use an exterior exposed elevator. I’m considering starting a petition to have them banned.  No one needs to see out of an elevator anyway!

You are hosting a dinner party for six. What five people, living or dead, would you invite and why?
Kobe Bryant – I greatly admired his work ethic, will to win, and ability to transition from the game of basketball as arguably one of the best to ever play to game, to an Oscar winning film producer.
Barack Obama – His rise to become the nation’s first African American President, while still serving as an engaged father and husband is admirable.
Abraham Lincoln – Arguably the nation’s most impactful President.  His perseverance and vision as a leader was second to none.
Rev. Samuel Harris – While not known like the other guests, he was my wife’s grandfather and probably one of the strongest, wisest and wittiest men I had the pleasure of being around.  I didn’t prioritize spending the type of time with him that I should have to truly soak up all of his knowledge and insight, and will forever regret it.
Jay-Z – I’m a huge fan of not only his music, but also his business savvy.

Name an as yet unfulfilled dream.
Hitting a hole-in-one on the golf course!

If you weren’t doing what you are, you would be.
If I weren’t a healthcare executive, I’d love to be a high-end real estate broker. I’m a huge fan of the television series Million Dollar Listings NY. The show follows four agents as they move and shake around NY selling homes to some of the world’s wealthiest people. It seems like a pretty fun job to have!

Your go-to food.
Sausage and Pepperoni Pizza! My wife does an excellent job of ensuring that my daughter and I have a healthy meal so it’s my alone at home (which is extremely rare) go-to!

Favorite movies(s).
Training Day, The Usual Suspects, and Old School.

Dogs or cats?
Dogs! We don’t have either yet, but our daughter is wearing us down. She’s got her mother’s powers of persuasion! In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I arrived home after a long day in the office to a brand new dog, and my wife and daughter smiling at me as if it magically appeared.

Your favorite quote and why.
I will not lose, for even in defeat, there is a valuable lesson learned so it evens it up for me!  Jay-Z (Blueprint 2)  It’s a reminder that our trials and tribulations can be just as meaningful as our triumphs when we view them from an opportunistic lens.

Name something that you are extremely glad you did or accomplished.
Of all my accomplishments and achievements, I’m most proud that I get to serve as a husband and father! I have an extremely intelligent and loving wife and the cutest 6-year-old little girl in the world! (of course I’m a little biased) They are truly the greatest gift I could ever ask for!

What advice would you give your younger self just starting out on their own.
Keep passion and purpose top of mind as you navigate your career.  Doing that positions you for much greater long-term career success than simply pursuing a title and/or money!

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