Susan G. Komen for The Cure Resignations: Do They Matter?


So there has apparently been a big leadership shakeup at Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the country’s best known breast cancer charity, after its stupid, stupid decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood in January resulted in public outrage.

The changes? As per Komen P.R.: “Founder and CEO Nancy G. Brinker announced plans to move to a new management role focusing on revenue creation, strategy and global growth as chair of the Komen Board Executive Committee when the search for a new senior executive has been completed. At the same time, Komen President Liz Thompson announced plans to leave the organization in September.”

Also: “Board members Brenda Lauderback and Linda Law, who have served on the Komen board since 2008 and 2009 respectively, are leaving the board of directors.”

This announcement comes, of course, after Karen Handel, Komen’s vice president for public policy, stepped down in February.

For what it’s worth (probably nothing), Komen spokespeople totally promise that these changes have nothing to do with the January mess.

All that said, we wonder: Can these changes make any difference?

Now, to be clear, we’re certainly not the first people to voice misgivings.

Lauri Stahl’s article on the Washington Post‘s website, with the headline “Nancy Brinker’s Komen shakeup too little and way too late,” argued that the organization suffered from a “failure to communicate, which is why Susan G. Komen for the Cure has yet to heal from its self-inflicted wounds.”

And Stahl isn’t too convinced that they’re fixed this issue.

“Brinker expects us to believe that she, the foundation’s president and two board members just happen to decide to move on at the same time? That’s what Komen told its affiliates Wednesday, in a perfect example of the kind of forethought that got them into this mess,” she writes. “Many former supporters feel she has yet to address her mistakes, and the organization can’t really move on until she does.”

Another WashPo article also suggests that Komen has lacked the kind of leadership to regain public trust — and isn’t doing itself any favors with hasty-seeming moves.

“If the leadership shake-up has nothing to do with the controversy, what’s the rush?” asks Jena McGregor. “Why not wait until a new CEO (or at least a new president) has been found to announce two such high-level changes? Even if Brinker stays in the role until new senior leaders are named, knowing that the current CEO won’t be in the role for long could create uncertainty at the top.”

McGregor seems to be positive, however, and thinks that Komen can bounce back — if the public can distance the organization’s highly politicized leadership from its mission.

But, Brinker is sticking around…in a very active capacity.

Some reports say that she will “still be intimately involved on a day-to-day basis.”

Even after Komen reversed its Planned Parenthood decision, people have been pissed about a lot of shit that went down under Brinker’s leadership.

The controversy also made the public revisit concerns that the charity was more concerned with aesthetics than advocacy.

(If you need a recap, remember that Komen came under fire for a wide variety of gaffes, including pink fundraising guns and ‘Shoot for the Cure’ events, as well as sketchy partnerships and shadily inconsistent policies on stem cell research.)

Obvs, it’s hard to look past all this negative stuff — and focus on the charity itself — when Brinker isn’t distancing herself from Komen, because it all happened under her watch!

Sure, Brinker apologized for the funding flap, but Jezebel has noted that fundraising hasn’t recovered.

“The charity’s signature fundraising event, Race for the Cure, lagged in nearly every market. Galas were canceled. Officials in chapters across the country resigned in disappointment. Many critics called for Nancy Brinker to resign if she valued the future of the charity, but there she was, hanging on.”

In addition, outcry continues over Komen’s mammogram policy — namely, ads claiming that “early detection saves lives.”

Mother Jones reports that Komen ads state

“that the five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 98 percent when it’s caught early and only 23 percent when it’s not. But Steven Woloshin of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Lisa M. Schwartz of the Center for Medicine and the Media at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice point out in their [British Medical Journal] article that the ads ‘dramatically overstate the benefit of screening’ and neglect to mention that screenings aren’t always good for women.”

Yeah…it seems like there still might be significant problems at Komen. And while resignations and reorganizations alone probably couldn’t solve all of them, it’s unclear how Brinker’s continued presence will benefit the cause.

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