Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Senior Director of Operations
| 12:00 p.m. October 15, 2020
40 Under 40
Class of 2020
Samantha Watkins joined Florida Cancer Specialists at age 20 and has never looked back.
In the dozen years since she came about the health care provider as an executive assistant to the then-COO, Watkins has risen steadily.
In 2012, she was named associate director of operations. Two years later, she was promoted to regional director of operations for Hillsborough County.
Today she’s senior director of operations, a position from which she oversees teams of staffers in Pinellas and Pasco counties.
“I’ve really grown up as I’ve gone up through the ranks at Florida Cancer Specialists,” says Watkins, who became acquainted with the practice when family members received treatment there.
“I knew I always wanted to be in health care in some way, and I came to realize from my own experiences that a lot of people are affected by cancer,” she says. “Since I’ve come to FCS, I’ve really developed a mentality about giving back because the work fosters that in you, and that’s the culture at work here. It’s a very rewarding specialty.”
Watkins says she is constantly motivated by the bravery of Florida Cancer’s patients and their appreciation. “Their bravery is so moving, [so] you want to do what’s right for them,” she says. “They’ve definitely taught me that when you fall down, which you will do. You just have to get up again.”
She acknowledges the health care industry is challenging because so often government regulations and even societal norms regarding care change.“Anticipating and having a plan of action definitely are a huge part of being successful,” Watkins says.
COVID-19 has made an already challenging situation even more so.
“We don’t have the luxury of closing up shop,” she says of FCS. “When the pandemic hit, we had to ramp up and implement our telehealth capabilities, which we did literally over a weekend. And another big concern, of course, is keeping our staff safe and healthy. We had to deal with everyone who has kids in schools that were closed because of the virus. That took a lot of juggling.”
No matter that or other challenges, she plans to stay with FCS well into the future.
“I still have aspirations to grow, and I think there’s opportunity here for people to grow,” Watkins says. “I believe you can start anywhere, and as long as you put your mind to something, and you’re willing to learn, you can succeed.”
City of Residence
Florida Cancer Specialists and Research Institute
Senior director of operations
Years on the Gulf Coast
Married with three children
Bachelor's degree in health services administration
What community group or organization are you most involved with?
Florida Cancer Specialists Foundation, an amazing organization that helps cancer patients in Florida with nonmedical expenses. Our physicians cover the overhead, so every penny donated goes to the patients.
What's the weirdest job you've ever had?
Every job has had interesting aspects, but I haven't had any remarkably strange jobs.
What's your top tip for being productive?
First, surround yourself with a good team. Always think five steps ahead. Being able to anticipate the impact of a decision helps to prevent redundancy of efforts. Constantly focusing on the patients also helps to inspire productivity.
If you could have a side hustle, what would it be?
I would be a florist. I enjoy the creativity of working with fresh flowers and then seeing a beautiful finished product.
What's your favorite off-hours activity?
I like to play all kinds of sports with the family.
What's your favorite board game, game show or video game?
My list of favorite games is plentiful, but I would have to choose Scattergories.
What do you use most — Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams or Google Meetings?
Zoom has been the most popular.
What’s the best binge-worthy show you have enjoyed during the pandemic?
I love watching "Home Town" on HGTV. This subsequently leads to many ideas and projects to do while at home.
What’s the longest virtual meeting you’ve been on since mid-March?
The record so far is a little more than five hours.
How many times had you used video for a work meeting prior to the pandemic?
Because FCS is across the state, we utilized video meetings to communicate regularly with the team. The frequency, however, has increased since the pandemic.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned during the pandemic?
To have a plan, but be flexible. Each day brought a new challenge that we had to navigate. By having a plan, but being agile, we were able to address each challenge and ensure patient care was never impacted.
What do you miss most about the world pre-pandemic?
I miss being able to visit and walk through our clinics and connect with the patient we serve through a smile.
What have you been spending more time doing during the pandemic?
I have spent a lot more time outside during the pandemic. Whether it's playing sports with the kids or sitting outside with a good book, just being outdoors has helped to lessen a lot of the changes that have affected our everyday lives.
Do you prefer working from home or working from an office?
I prefer to work in an office, so I can interact with our patients and colleagues.
How have you kept up camaraderie with colleagues during the pandemic?
Our teamwork and camaraderie has been stronger than ever. Cancer care demands connection and collaboration to provide the best care to patients, so our team has come together to assist one another wherever and whenever needed.
What’s the first thing you’ll do after the pandemic?
I'll take a family vacation and enjoy traveling again.