Komen Promise Renewed

Last week marked a milestone for Susan G. Komen when our community of Affiliates, partners and research scientists gathered in Ft. Worth, Texas to support the priorities and principles that will guide the Komen mission going forward.  I was energized by seeing some of the world’s foremost breast cancer researchers, funded by Komen, working hand-in-hand with our network of community Affiliates and our corporate partners. There were hundreds of us representing the millions of us who want to end breast cancer, forever.

We left that meeting knowing that the first 32 years of our work have had meaning: death rates from breast cancer are steadily declining in the U.S.; five-year relative survival rates for early-stage breast cancers are at 99 percent.  But we also left that meeting determined to do more, guided by new principles designed to foster new collaborations in our movement, expand our community outreach, and support a new generation of breast cancer researchers.

We call our new approach “A Promise Renewed.” It builds on the foundation of our organization – the promise between our founder Nancy G. Brinker, and her dying sister, Susan G. Komen – to end the disease that claimed Suzy’s life 34 years ago. Our renewed promise acknowledges our progress, and redoubles our commitment to see that mission fulfilled.

We reaffirmed our commitment to funding along the entire breast cancer spectrum: from prevention, to better and more sensitive early detection, and to more effective treatments for aggressive and metastatic forms of the disease. And to ensure that breast cancer research continues until we find cures, we are focusing more than half of our research dollars on young scientists this year, with a goal of increasing even that number by 30 percent. With federal and private research budgets tightening, we are deeply concerned that the next generation of researchers will become an endangered species, and we consider it our responsibility to do our part to keep promising young researchers from leaving the field because of the paucity of funding.

We also consider it our special responsibility to bring the benefits of the research and excellent care to people who need it.  We do this through our Komen Affiliate Network, the largest grassroots network of any breast cancer organization, working in 117 U.S. and three international communities.

This Network is the heart and soul of the Susan G. Komen organization, working in our neighborhoods to reach those who are at high risk for poor health outcomes, to fund medical treatment and provide financial support such as insurance co-pays, surgical expenses, medical supplies – even the rent and groceries for financially strapped breast cancer patients and their families.  Our Affiliates serve as a helping hand to the women, men and families facing breast cancer.  We are determined to expand their work to more areas and to do so in the most efficient manner to create maximum impact for our donors’ dollars.

We also are committed to expanding our work beyond the 30 countries we serve in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and central Europe, by building on partnerships that have created screening, treatment and outreach programs in regions of the world where breast cancer carries significant stigma, and screening and treatment resources are scarce. Breast cancer is growing exponentially in low- and middle-income countries, and Komen must be there to support meaningful partnership to stem a coming crisis.

Most importantly, we won’t do any of this alone. Komen has long understood the value of organizations working together toward noble goals: we already partner with thousands of community health organizations, nonprofits and research organizations around the world.  We have helped create unique programs, some funded by our corporate and nonprofit partners, to fund research, global and community programs around the world. Our new priorities and principles will build on those collaborations and create new ones among breast cancer organizations, other nonprofits, governments and corporate partners to meet the challenges ahead.

These priorities are outlined in a document that I invite you to read.

While these are newer approaches to strengthen Susan G. Komen, they rest on a fundamental promise that will never change: our commitment to end breast cancer, forever, and to serve those who face it today, and for as long as they need us.

About the author

Judy Salerno has written 23 articles for Susan G. Komen® | Blog

Judith A. Salerno, M.D., M.S., is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Susan G. Komen®, responsible for the day-to-day operation of the organization and for setting Komen’s strategic vision. Dr. Salerno brings extensive experience in research, public health policy and community health to the role. Before joining Komen, she was the Leonard D. Schaeffer Executive Officer of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies, serving as executive director and chief operating officer of the Institute.