Komen names Judith Salerno as CEO to replace Nancy Brinker

June 17, 2013

The beleaguered Susan G. Komen Foundation has named a nationally known health policy and research expert in Washington to replace founder Nancy Brinker as its chief executive, the breast cancer charity announced Monday.

The new chief executive is Judith A. Salerno, 61, currently executive director and chief operating officer of the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, which advises the government and private sector about health and science.

Brinker will serve as chair of global strategy, effective immediately, according to Komen spokeswoman Andrea Rader.

Salerno’s official start date is Sept. 9, but she is expected to attend Komen’s annual leadership conference in Dallas on Friday and meet with representatives from Komen’s affiliates. Salerno also plans to spend two to three days a week during the summer at Komen’s Dallas headquarters, Rader said.

The move is the latest effort by the charity to restore credibility to one of the strongest brands in the nonprofit world. It comes more than a year after a funding controversy involving Planned Parenthood severely damaged the organization, hurting fundraising and morale.

Brinker initially did not want to give up her role as chief executive, prompting Salerno to take herself out of consideration, according to one source familiar with Komen’s business operations. Some within the Komen organization are concerned that Brinker’s presence will mean she will continue to make decisions behind the scenes, the source said.

“I don’t know any of that intrigue,” Rader said. The board has made clear that Salerno will be in charge, she said, and everyone, including Brinker, will be reporting to Salerno.

In early June, Komen canceled its signature 3-Day Walk in Washington and six other cities next year, slashing the number of the fundraising events by half because of a drop in participation. Registration for Komen races across the country is down 10 to 15 percent. Nearly a dozen highly regarded senior executives have left the organization since the funding controversy.

Brinker’s new title means her fiscal 2012 salary of $684,717 will be cut, though officials declined to say by how much.

Brinker, 67, announced in August that she would move from the chief executive role, which she had held since 2009, into one focused on fundraising and strategic planning. She sparked controversy in February 2012 when she unsuccessfully attempted to deny funds to Planned Parenthood because of a congressional investigation into whether the group was using federal money to pay for abortions. Komen reversed course after overwhelming public criticism.

Salerno, a graduate of Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health, was deputy director of the National Institute on Aging and led geriatric programs at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

She is responsible for managing policy and research programs at the Institute of Medicine, including the National Cancer Policy Forum, a consortium of government, industry, academic and consumer representatives that identifies emerging high-priority cancer policy issues, according to Komen.

In a statement released by Komen, Salerno said she was looking forward to the job.

“Komen’s commitment has helped countless numbers of low-income and medically underserved women and men get care they might otherwise have gone without, and Komen’s research program is one of the most highly respected in the nation, if not the world,” Salerno said.

Lena H. Sun is a national reporter for The Washington Post, focusing on health.
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