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Komen & Change at the Top, Is It All About Timing?

Are you suffering from “Komen fatigue?”

If so, you probably aren’t alone. I wasn’t going to even write this post because frankly, I’m feeling a bit “Komen fatigued” myself.

Still, the most recent developments at Susan G. Komen for the Cure® were pretty interesting…

Last week (on August 8, 2012) it was announced that Nancy Brinker was stepping down as CEO. It’s not like she’s leaving or anything, though undoubtedly some probably wish she would.

No, Ms. Brinker won’t be going anywhere, but will instead focus more on global strategic planning and fundraising in her new role as Executive Board Chair.

In the same news release, it was also announced that Komen President Liz Thompson would be leaving next month.

Though Ms. Brinker says this latest development just happened and adamantly denies it is in any way related to the recent Planned Parenthood fiasco and the subsequent fallout, the timing seems anything but coincidental to me.

In my opinion, it appears to be all about timing and very much related to all that has gone down in recent months.

Last week’s announcement came almost exactly six months after the Planned Parenthood fiasco last winter.

Who doesn’t remember that incident and the ensuing tidal wave that immediately followed?

It seems likely the Komen organization may have decided shortly thereafter to give that incident six months or so to see how things would shake out.

As it turned out, the shakeout resulted in lots of fall out.

Last winter damage control measures were put into play of course, but the timing was off and some of the damage control itself was also questioned.

Nancy Brinker’s decision to step down from her CEO post comes after the resignation of numerous others.

In addition, Ms. Brinker’s announcement followed closely on the heels of the wrist-slapping the Komen organization received just days prior to the announcement. Komen came under harsh criticism from medical experts due in large part to a recent ad, which many maintain used highly misleading information about mammograms. You can read about that here.

If this isn’t all about timing, I don’t know what is.

For a more thorough, accurate and concise synopsis of all recent Komen shenanigans, take a look at Gayle Sulik’s recent well thought-out post in which she brilliantly summarizes things.

The general reaction to Ms. Brinker’s resignation as CEO appears to be that it really won’t matter all that much. Skepticism abounds.

Many feel it’s too little too late.

Donna, one of my very wise readers, said this:  “They are just moving the chairs around the table, but it’s still the same table.”

I understand Donna’s skepticism. I’m pretty darn skeptical myself.

This might indeed be just another case of shuffling chairs around the table.

However, I do believe the scrutiny the Komen organization has come under since this past winter has made a difference. I do believe the organization has heard at least some of the “noise.” I do believe a crossroad has been reached.

I also believe, or at least I’d sure like to believe, real and meaningful change is still possible at the pink empire.

What kind of change do you want, you might be asking?

For starters, here are a couple suggestions the Komen organization might wish to consider:

Instead of merely stating you’ve learned from past mistakes; state exactly what those mistakes were, what you’ve learned from them and how you intend to change so such mistakes are not repeated.

Make a commitment to stop using simplistic and misleading information in ads and all educational material and end what appears to be science denialism by becoming better grounded in scientific fact.

Strive to partner and collaborate with other charitable organizations which have similar goals.

This one’s huge – do a better job on all fronts of embracing the metastatic breast cancer community.

And most importantly of all, dedicate far more of the funds you rake in annually to scientifically based research.

As friend and blogging colleague Jody, from Women With Cancer, said in a tweet last week, “We need to make the change — not watch for it. It’s time to MAKE the changes.”

Maybe it is all about timing.

Maybe it is time for all of us to step up and help make the changes.

The time to move this conversation further ahead is now.

Are you with me?

Do you feel Ms. Brinker‘s announcement matters or do you believe it’s too little too late?

Are you familiar with the ad in question?

Ad in question

Jan Baird Hasak

Sunday 19th of August 2012

Nancy, I'm late in chiming in, but I believe this announcement is too little, too late. Everything Komen does seems to be in response or reaction to a public relations fiasco. Why can't they just do things proactively instead of defensively? Thanks for keeping this discussion alive. xxoo


Monday 20th of August 2012

Jan, Your comments are never too late! It does seem Komen is being more reactive than proactive these days doesn't it? Good point. Thanks for chiming in!


Friday 17th of August 2012

I agree that we need to change the conversation and I think your suggestions to SGK organization are great. I also agree we have to change the public's perception to the truth about breast cancer. In 1991 in the US there were 119 deaths a day from breast cancer. This year it is estimated that there will be 108 deaths a day from breast cancer.That come out to 1 death every fourteen minutes from MBC. These are the type of facts that the public needs to know and we need those SGK dollars to help those with MBC find a way to reverse the Mets and find a vaccine to prevent it in the first place. We have got to find a way to bring organizations together so we can put an end to these deaths. We also have to make sure we include the people that are well meaning in trying to help put an end to this disease.


Wednesday 15th of August 2012

Empires becomes empires by an insatiable desire for control and acquisition. Eventually, however, all empires do fall. Due in great part to the erosion that occurs from within as a result of feeding an insatiable appetite. What we have seen over the last six months with SGK are signs of the corosiveness that has developed, sadly, from what was a laudable vision. Change is not only being thrust upon SGK, but, if we are fortunate, upon the entirety of the breast cancer industry. It is slow. It will take diligence and bravery on the part of those dealing with breast cancer -- either as "cancer champs" or "med pros." We will likely not reap the benefits of any of these promises of change. I hope my daughters will. SGK will either embrace the change, and re-embrace the vision that gave it birth...or it will continue to erode. At this point, the single most important change that needs to occur regarding SGK is that they be called-out and reigned in from doing harm.


Wednesday 15th of August 2012

TC, Change is terribly slow isn't it? I hope all our daughters (and sons) reap the benefits of change that surely is happening. I hope. Thanks so much for sharing your insights about empires. I do think this particular one is beginning to crumble. It's time for even more shake-up or it, too, will more than likely fall.

Beth L. Gainer

Wednesday 15th of August 2012

Nancy, I think your blog has had a huge impact -- it's one of the many voices rising up against Komen. I don't know what the answer is, but I do know you make some excellent suggestions. I, frankly, think it's too little, too late.

And man do I have Komen fatigue. Dreading October, but am hoping to get through it better than I did last year.


Wednesday 15th of August 2012

Beth, Thanks for the kind words, Beth. I do think all our voices together have made a difference. I have to believe that. And lots of people are suffering from Komen fatigue. Maybe in the long run run this is a good thing because maybe everyone will be scrutinizing them even further. I hope so. Yes, October can be challenging, but also an opportunity don't you think? Wow, listen to me, I almost sound too positive! ha ha. Anyway, we'll all get through it together!

Lori Marx-Rubiner

Tuesday 14th of August 2012

Excellent post, Nancy...and I'm fairly certain you know where I stand on the issues!! However, two thoughts come to mind as I read yours.

First, love them or hate them, the demise of Komen could well be a loss to all of us. Komen has become synonymous with breast cancer, and they are masterful marketers (even if it's all smoke and mirrors). If people cease to trust Komen as custodians of breast cancer dollars, I fear they will simply stop giving. And while most of the research dollars are public funds, Komen has provided much in the way of support services that change the lives of women every day.

Komen's fate will likely have an impact on breast cancer no matter what happens in and to the organization. The question then is what to do about Komen. Speaking only for myself, I have to acknowledge that my ongoing Internet rants, as deserving as they might be, cannot possibly impact Komen in any way.'s time to figure out how to make my/our voices heard. BCA did it years ago with, if I recall correctly, a single share of Avon stock.

A letter-writing campaign?

An op-Ed campaign across the country (Pinktober is around the corner)?

An online petition?

It's time for a coordinated grass-roots effort to make our voices heard beyond the pages of our blogs!


Wednesday 15th of August 2012

Lori, I agree Komen has done some wonderful work. I don't think anyone disputes that. They've just wandered off the path a bit as I see things. I don't even think it's too late to turn things around as many do. I'm not entirely sure our "rants" have no impact. I actually think social media played a huge role last winter in bringing about the Planned Parenthood decision reversal. Of course, my little blog's impact is minuscule for sure, but put together with all the other voices out there, I believe we can and are making a difference. I'm all ears if anyone has more ideas for a grass-roots type effort. Good for you for suggesting for thought. Thanks for commenting, Lori.

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