John Seffrin has been CEO of the American Cancer Society since 1992, but his first encounter with this disease dates to his childhood. His grandmother, who was living with his family at the time, died of cancer when he was only 10 years old. He has since lost his mother to cancer, and his wife of 46 years, Carole, is a breast cancer survivor.
Dr. Seffrin has been on the frontlines of the war against cancer for many years, not only as CEO of the American Cancer Society, but also – for many years before that – as one of the Society’s roughly three million volunteers nationwide. Under his leadership, the Society has become the world’s largest voluntary health organization fighting cancer, with a billion dollars in resources to save lives by helping people stay well and get well, by finding cures, and by fighting back. During his tenure, Dr. Seffrin has made his organization’s voice heard in legislatures around this country and in forums worldwide. And he has not shied away from a fight, especially if the foe is the tobacco industry.
In the political realm, Dr. Seffrin has transformed the world’s largest voluntary cancer-fighting group into one of the world’s most progressive public health organizations. Under his leadership, the American Cancer Society has become a leading advocacy organization. He spearheaded the creation of the Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action NetworkSM, of which he is also the chief executive officer.
Dr. Seffrin is active in numerous organizations. He currently serves on the White House Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health, as well as the Advisory Committee to the Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a Secretary-level appointment. Dr. Seffrin is a past president of the Geneva-headquartered Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), the first globally-oriented cancer non-governmental organization (NGO), and has served as chairman of the board of Independent Sector, the largest coalition of nonprofit groups. He also helped to create the National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids (now the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids), among his many collaborations and affiliations.
In 1999, Dr. Seffrin was selected to be a charter member of C-Change (formerly known as the National Dialogue on Cancer) Steering Committee, which was co-chaired by former President George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush. In 1997, he was appointed to the National Cancer Policy Board of the Institute of Medicine, and in 1999, was appointed by Senator Dianne Feinstein to co-chair the National Cancer Legislation Advisory Committee.
Dr. Seffrin is a contributing author to more than one dozen books and has written more than 100 articles and other publications. He is an internationally esteemed speaker who has presented more than 100 invited lectures worldwide and been honored numerous times, including being named the 2010 recipient of the James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation’s Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award.
Dr. Seffrin holds a B.S. degree from Ball State University, a M.S. degree in health education from the University of Illinois, and a Ph.D. in health education from Purdue University. Ball State University, Purdue University, Thomas Jefferson University, and Indiana University have also bestowed honorary doctorates upon him in recognition of his more than three decades of leadership in the worldwide fight against cancer.
Prior to being named the American Cancer Society’s top staff executive, Dr. Seffrin served at Indiana University as professor of health education and chairman of the Department of Applied Health Science.