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Each year, Moffitt Cancer Center host its annual Faculty Appreciation and Recognition Ceremony, where they highlight faculty members for their outstanding achievements across the cancer center. Fifteen awards are given to those who raise the bar of science at Moffitt, furthering its mission to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer.

The top award, Charles C. Williams Jr., Physician of the Year, is given to a member of the medical staff who embodies the finest qualities of a physician. 

This year’s Charles C. Williams Jr. Physician of the Year award recipient is Dr. Robert Keenan

As Moffitt’s Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Quality, Keenan has been leading the way for the last six years, overseeing the quality of clinical services and developing clinical performance improvement efforts to maximize the value of care for patients. 

This year, he was recognized for his innovative work leading the efforts to continue cancer care through the COVID-19 pandemic. He organized and built different pathways for Moffitt to ensure patients received their care and team members were able safely provide care. 

Keenan says he feels honored to win such a prestigious award.  

Dr. Bob Keenan, vice president of Quality and chief medical officer

Dr. Bob Keenan, Vice President of Quality and Chief Medical Officer

“It’s humbling, of course, especially when you look at those physicians who have been given this same honor and the many others who are nominated and are truly worthy each year,” Keenan said. “It’s also an acknowledgment of the incredible efforts of so many team members. While in some ways I may have been the face of our COVID-19 response, that exists only because of the many people who came together and contributed their talents to make that happen.”

Ensuring that patients receive the best care and processes flow correctly isn’t something that Keenan wanted to accomplish just during the pandemic, it's his passion. 

“Flow is my passion. Every day, at Moffitt, our patients, their families and our team members interact with several departments and services. The natural tendency is for each of these to try to optimize its own operations but, this can lead to unintended consequences both upstream and downstream,” he said. “By recognizing a person's entire journey and making that as smooth as possible, we create value for that person. The same thing is true in our personal lives.”

Outside of his duties as vice president, Keenan is also a senior member of the Department of Thoracic Oncology. He says he became a physician at Moffitt for many reasons. He wanted to help thoracic cancer patients overcome their disease and make the cancer center the safest and best place for cancer patients to receive care. 

As a physician, Keenan says the most important lesson he has learned from his patients is resilience. 

“Our patients are facing the most devastating diagnosis and while more and more patients are cured or in remission, too many will still succumb to their disease,” said Keenan. “Despite that, most patients face their journey with incredible courage and a willingness to put themselves through whatever treatments we can offer. They generally do this with a sense of optimism that requires nothing less than our best efforts as providers.”

Keenan’s advice to those who want to follow a similar path is simple – do it because it brings you joy and fulfillment. 

“Seek mentorship from others who are doing the roles you are interested in. Analyze your strengths as well as your weaknesses, and consciously work on both to ensure you bring your best self to the job. In the end, it comes back to joy and fulfillment because this is how you can offer your best contribution to the mission,” Keenan said.