As Komen announces shake-up, local leader calls it 'a path to recovery'
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|Thu, 08-09-2012 - 11:22am|
As national leaders with Susan G. Komen for the Cure announce a shake-up, the local Komen executive director says, "It's a path to recovery. We've had a very tough year."
The president of Susan G. Komen for the Cure is resigning and founder Nancy Brinker is moving away from its day-to-day management, the nation's largest breast-cancer foundation said Wednesday as fallout from its brief decision to end funding for Planned Parenthood reaches the organization's highest ranks.
President Liz Thompson will leave Komen next month and Brinker will relinquish her chief executive's role for one more focused on fundraising and strategic planning, according to a statement from the Dallas-based organization.
It's the latest shake-up since news emerged in January that Komen had decided to eliminate its funding for Planned Parenthood for breast-cancer screening. After a three-day firestorm, Komen reversed course — though that didn't quell the criticism, as long-devoted Komen fundraisers walked away. Chapters around the country reported fundraising drops. The Puget Sound chapter's annual Race for the Cure in June raised $500,000 less than the previous year.
According to the statement, which makes no reference to the Planned Parenthood decision or fallout, Thompson said the time was right for her to pursue other opportunities. She hailed the organization's leadership in pursuing a cure for breast cancer and for helping with cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment.
"That legacy will continue. It has been a privilege and an honor to serve in this role," she said.
Cheryl Shaw, executive director of the Puget Sound affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, was not shocked or dismayed by Wednesday's announcement.
"I think it was recognized that there was a need for some changes to be made," said Shaw. "It's a path to recovery. We've had a very tough year."
Chris Charbonneau, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, said earlier this year that the national group's initial decision had resulted from "political bullying."
Komen said it ended the Planned Parenthood funding after reviewing grant criteria and deciding to deny money to any organization under federal, state or local investigation. The group cited a probe by U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican, into Planned Parenthood's use of government money.
In the days after the organization reversed that decision, Komen policy chief Karen Handel resigned. She had opposed abortion as a Republican candidate for Georgia governor and had become a target of those angry about the decision to halt funding to Planned Parenthood. Her resignation was followed, in quick succession, by others in top posts.
Shaw and local board president Joni Earl wrote to the national office calling the original decision "misguided" and complaining that it had failed to "consider feedback from the affiliates" before acting.
Organizers of Race for the Cure events — 5K runs and walks that account for most of the charity's fundraising — saw participation decline by as much as 30 percent. Most saw fundraising sink, although a couple of races brought in more money.
According to Komen's statement Wednesday, the foundation has invested $1.3 billion in community programs over 30 years to pay for screenings, education and financial and psychological support for those fighting breast cancer.
Brinker praised Thompson's work in expanding Komen's influence in scientific, community health, advocacy and global programs. As for her changed role, Brinker said she assumed the chief executive's duties at the request of the foundation's board in 2009.
"Three years into that role, and 32 years after my promise to my sister to end breast cancer, I want now to focus on Susan G. Komen's global mission and raising resources to bring our promise to women all around the world," she said.
The local affiliate, Shaw said, never wavered from its commitment to provide needed services to local women. "But this was a distraction that hurt us locally, in terms of our ability to fundraise, and in turn, hurt local women."
Bloomberg News contributed. Seattle Times health reporter Carol M. Ostrom: 206-464-2249 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @costrom.