Susan G Komen Foundation
There is a lot of controversy about the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. What is not controversial is that they are largely responsible for bringing so much public attention to breast cancer (no matter what you think about all those pink ribbons, and, personally, I hate them) and they are the second largest funder, next to the federal government, in the US of breast cancer research. .
This is an interview with Nancy Brinker, the founder and sister of Susan, from the New York Times:
Seeking Cures, Then and Now
By NANCY BRINKER
MY mother gave my sister, Suzy, and me our first lessons in stewardship. On Saturday afternoons, she would drive us to volunteer somewhere. We might go to a homeless shelter, or to the Red Cross or to an ill neighbor's house to do laundry. One day we complained and she pulled off onto the side of the road and gave us her stewardship talk. She told us that it was up to us to fix what was wrong in this country.
My sister was 8 and I was 5. We decided to give a show in our backyard to benefit polio research. Suzy told me that I had to sing and dance and that she'd sell tickets. I sang the only songs I knew — Rosemary Clooney tunes. I thought I was wonderful, but when I was done, Suzy said that the next time she'd sing and that I could sell the tickets. We raised $64.
I attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I didn't learn well in a class- room, probably because of an undiagnosed learning disability. I asked a lot of questions and learned experientially — and I was president of my sorority and active in several
clubs. After graduating from college in 1968, I entered the executive training program at Neiman Marcus in Dallas. I loved the psychology of marketing. I was also adviser
for Bozell & Jacobs, a public relations company in Dallas.
My sister died of breast cancer in 1980. Two years later, I founded the precursor of our current foundation and served as a volunteer. In the late 1970s, when my sister's cancer was diagnosed, breast cancer wasn't discussed freely in the media. There were no "800" numbers for information, or breast cancer Web sites or patient advocacy groups the way there are today.
In 2001, President George W. Bush appointed me as ambassador to Hungary. I knew the Bush family because I lived in Texas and also through my breast cancer work. In 2002, to raise awareness of the disease, I walked across the Szechenyi Bridge in Budapest with the Hungarian minister of health and several hundred breast cancer survivors.
In 2003, I refocused fully again on the foundation's activities, and in 2007 was appointed White House chief of protocol. My father was sick and I wanted to care for him, but he told me that there would never be a perfect time to serve and that he wanted me to do it.
As chief of protocol, I was first to greet Pope Benedict XVI when he visited the United States in 2008. I also visited a Pepfar (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) clinic in Tanzania that year with President Bush.
In 2009, I was appointed goodwill ambassador for cancer control for the United Nations World Health Organization. Tobacco use is growing in other countries and cancer rates are rising. Awareness campaigns make a difference. I called for a regional meeting in Egypt with health ministers to increase awareness of the harmful effects of tobacco.
I also became C.E.O. of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, named for my sister, that year. Our group has benefited from the knowledge I've gained in every position I've held. Seeing how other countries deal with health care was especially enlightening. We began in Dallas and now have offices there and in Washington, with affiliates in 120 American communities and in 50 countries.
When I started this group, I hoped it would take 10 years to find a cure. We're not there yet. But we've made great incremental gains in understanding biology and increasing awareness. The survivor rate has increased immensely. I'm a breast cancer survivor myself.
We've invested more than $1.9 billion in breast cancer research and programs. We've given voice to survivors — our pink ribbon is a symbol worldwide. It was my sister's favorite color.
As told to Patricia R. Olsen.