When most people think of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, real estate management is not the first job that comes to mind. In addition to providing clinical treatment and conducting cancer research, however, the internationally renowned organization also owns a real estate portfolio totaling more than 2.5 million square feet. And Wendy Gettleman, vice president of facilities management and real estate, is responsible for overseeing it.
Dana-Farber utilizes this portfolio for a variety of uses, including providing office, laboratory, clinical and research space. Managing all of it is, of course, a massive undertaking, but Gettleman is more than up for the task, said Bob Richards, managing partner at Transwestern Consulting Group, who nominated Gettelman for a Women of FIRE Award.
Richards, who has worked with Dana-Farber in a brokerage advisor capacity for more than a decade, described Gettleman’s work ethic as that of someone who “runs a marathon like she’s sprinting, every single day.”
“In a given day, she could be negotiating union contracts or $100 million real estate deals or dealing with some utilities thing. … I don’t deal with many people that have such a broad array of subjects that they’re responsible for,” he said.
Gettleman said that although she manages a heavy workload, she never feels overwhelmed because she has a “fantastic team” on her side.
“It’s amazing the things that [Dana-Farber] does, and to know that you’re part of that by supporting the places that people do research or work with patients … is something that drives all of us in our department,” Gettleman said.
Gettleman felt particularly proud of the impact of her work while helping to build the Yawkey Center, which opened in 2011. “That was a phenomenal experience,” she recalled. “With every design group I ran, we had patient and family participation, so there were at least two members of our Patient Advisory Committee sitting in on every portion of the design planning. It was so impactful to hear their stories and to be able to engage them in the design of a building that will serve to treat them.”
More recently, Gettleman helped structure a fixed condominium purchase option at Longwood Center that is expected to save Dana-Farber more than $300 million – which equates to $300 million the organization can funnel into its mission of fighting cancer. “That’s always in the back of my mind and [the mind] of everyone that works here,” Gettleman said.
When she’s not busy with her work at Dana-Farber, Gettleman makes time to mentor the next generation, particularly its young women. A proud Cornell University alumnus, she is an active member of the President’s Council for Cornell Women, where she is chair of its mentoring committee, among other roles.
“It’s amazing, the women that you meet, even just in the real estate component, although there aren’t that many women in the field,” she said. “To be able to share my experiences, to be a sounding board for folks or to help make connections has really meant a lot to me.”