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Spotlight: Amy Deshler

Friday, January 11, 2019
Amy Deshler

This week’s Spotlight shines on Amy Deshler, senior executive director of Duke Children’s and Duke Cancer Institute Development. In her “What I’m Learning These Days” blog post for the Office of University Development/Talent Development, Deshler discusses eight habits of resilient leaders.

It’s the New Year. We are all being bombarded with new ways to be happier, healthier, and more successful, and most of the time there is a product being sold that can help us achieve our goals. I’ve paid particularly close attention to these advertisements as I’ve contemplated what I wanted to write about in my What I’m Learning These Days blog.

Well folks, I’m sticking to my tried and true. I love the topic of resiliency. Always have, always will. I saw an article on my Facebook feed today about the eight habits of resilient leaders. It spoke to me, and I hope it speaks to you too. The bolded bullets are credited to the Mayo Clinic Executive Health article, and the commentary is mine.

Resilient leaders maintain these 8 habits:

They stay connected – and I’m not talking about your cell phone. Resilient individuals are able to establish and maintain meaningful connections at work, at home, and in their community.

They cultivate purpose – at Duke this is easy. We are fortunate to be in the business of helping to make the world a better place. Enjoy this responsibility.

They practice gratitude – most of the literature says to write down three things you are thankful for each morning. I prefer to run them through my head before I go to sleep at night. I find this to be more helpful than swirling the numerous tasks I didn’t complete or worrying about those that are waiting for me in the morning. Dr. Amit Sood has wonderful information available if you are interested in learning more.

They check their pessimism – resilient leaders notice when they are cranky. And here I will take the opportunity to note another favorite topic of mine: the skill of self-awareness. If you find yourself in a negative space, figure out a way to work your way back to your happy place. You own your reaction to whatever life may throw at you.

They are careful about how they cope – if turning to food or other unhealthy habits is your default, find healthier coping mechanisms.

They take a hike – walking helps break the stress cycle. Strive for those 10,000 daily steps we all know we need to take.

They take time to breathe deeply – especially in stressful situations. If you’ve not heard my story about working with an irate inmate in a federal prison in Minnesota, I’m happy to share with you how deep breathing played a vital role in an incredibly intense situation.

They go to bed on time – I have twin 17-year-old boys who, I kid you not, just said over Christmas that their mom goes to bed at 7:30 every night. I can assure you, it’s nowhere near that early, but I do my best to practice a reasonable sleeping routine.

I wish each of you a happy, healthy, and resilient New Year.


Amy Deshler, MSW, is senior executive director of Duke Children’s and Duke Cancer Institute Development. 

Deshler first joined Duke Children’s in July 2016, overseeing the development team. Over the past two years, Deshler has led her team to increasing levels of success in a wide variety of programs, including major gifts and community engagement. Deshler began her additional responsibilities for cancer fundraising in May 2018.

Prior to coming to Duke, Deshler served as associate chair of Development at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where, for more than 15 years, she held successive leadership positions in development. While at Mayo, she provided strategic direction and planning, leadership and management of staff, program development, partnership and support for leaders and faculty in their development work, managed seven leadership councils, the international program and successfully secured principal and major gifts. 

Prior to her work in Development, Deshler was team leader for Mayo’s Cancer Education Program, including development and implementation of a business plan for the Cancer Education Center, with oversight for staff contributors from Mayo Clinic, American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute. Deshler has published many peer-reviewed articles in journals, such as Cancer Nursing, Oncology Nursing Forum, Proceedings of American Society of Clinical Oncology and others.  

Deshler received her Bachelor of Science degree in Social Work and Corrections from Minnesota State University. She received her Master of Social Work degree in Health and Medical Care Services from The University of North Carolina.