Dr. Laura Connelly-Smith receives Dr. Ali Al-Johani Award for exceptional patient care

A hematologist who 'personifies the joys of working at a place like the Hutch'
photo of Laura Connelly-Smith speaking at a podium
Dr. Laura Connelly-Smith received the Al-Johani Award on March 4. Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Laura Connelly-Smith, assistant 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 an education capacity, and as a care provider,” said Dr. Nancy E. Davidson, director of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Clinical Research Division, who presented the award to Connelly-Smith on Monday. “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 and 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 though 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 at 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:

Read more about Fred Hutch achievements and accolades.

Jake Siegel is a former staff writer at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. Previously, he covered health topics at UW Medicine and technology at Microsoft. He has an M.A. from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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