Dr. Laura Connelly-Smith, assistant professor and medical director of apheresis and cellular therapy at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, has received the 2019 Dr. Ali Al-Johani Award.

The award recognizes exceptional medical care and compassion to transplant patients and families.

"In a very short period of time, Laura has really made her mark academically, in a educaton capacity, and as a care provider," said Clinical Research Division Director Dr. Nancy Davidson, who presented the award to Connelly-Smith. "We're honoring all of those things today, but especially her expertise in the realm of care."

Awardees are nominated by their fellow caregivers and chosen by a committee that includes the CRD director and representatives from nursing, clinical faculty, and quality and patient services.

Dr. Connelly-Smith became part of the new Transplant Transitional Care, or TTC, clinic in 2012. She quickly established a reputation as a skilled compassionate physician -- particularly among the challenging panel of patients she managed in the TTC clinic, according to a colleague who nominated her for the award.

"Her compassionate and holistic care of highly complex post-transplant patients with GVHD and/or disease relapse has been outstanding and an inspiration to all of us who work with her at SCCA," her colleague wrote. "In addition, Laura provides this care with optimism, hope, a warm sense of humor, a tireless work ethic and deep humility."

As another colleague put it: "She personifies the joys of working at a place like the Hutch -- smart docs who are so approachable and willing to walk through patient care questions and dilemmas with you."

As she collected the award, Connelly-Smith thanked her SCCA and Fred Hutch colleagues -- and the patients who are the heart of all their work.

"Our patients demonstrate such courage, patience and fortitude that it's inspiring," she said. "It's the patients who have taught me how to be a better person."

The Dr. Ali Al-Johani Award, which comes with a cash prize and a crystal plaque, began in 2001, with a contribution from its namesake, a former Hutch leukemia patient who wished to reward excellent patient care in gratitude for the care he received. Previous winners are:

2001 -- Drs. David Madtes and Leona Holberg
2002 -- Dr. Bob Witherspoon
2003 -- Dr. Mary Flowers
2004 -- Dr. Mike Linenberger
2006 -- Dr. Paul Carpenter
2007 -- Dr. Paul O'Donnell
2009 -- Mid-level Providers
2010 -- Dr. Kris Doney
2011 -- Dr. Jean Sanders
2012 -- Dr. George B. McDonald
2013 -- Dr. Colleen Delaney
2014 -- Dr. Merav Bar
2015 -- Not Awarded
2016 -- Dr. Bart Scott
2017 -- Dr. Oliver "Ollie" Press
2018 -- Dr. Steven Pergam

March 4, 2019, by Jake Siegel