New at the Top: Wendy K.D. Selig, Melanoma Research Alliance

Monday, March 1, 2010; A14

When I threw my résumé in with the pool of hundreds vying for freshman positions on Capitol Hill, thankfully, I landed a position in the House. I was affiliated with then-Rep. Porter Goss of Florida as his press secretary, eventually taking over as legislative and communications director and eventually heading up the Washington office.

I remember a constituent who came to us when the AIDS crisis was exploding on the scene. The constituent's family included three boys who had hemophilia, all of whom were HIV-positive as a result of their treatment with blood products. After traveling from district to district to find help, they finally came to our district. I worked directly with them and the entire hemophilia community. Through our efforts, Congress enacted legislation to provide relief for people with hemophilia who had been infected with HIV.

Rep. Goss eventually became heavily involved in intelligence. As important as intelligence is to our country, I began desiring different kinds of experience. I looked at things that struck a chord with me. I had family members with cancer, and I felt that the cancer community was a place where I could put my skills to work.

I joined the American Cancer Society, bringing creative strategy as I figured out how to leverage all the different resources and bring people together. We pushed a number of bills, helping to win passage of some of the only health-care initiatives adopted during the late 1990s, such as the advancement of colon cancer screening.

I am extremely proud of the leadership contributions I made to build a new public health advocacy organization within the ACS. Though I had been there 10 years and learned many things, I thought that if the right opportunity came along for the next step in my career, I would take it.

Generally, I have a lot of expertise in the field of cancer. The issue of melanoma is one of urgency because it's a particular set of cancer that we're all sort of at risk for. It's not that well understood, and there is a real need. What sealed the deal for me was that at Melanoma Research Alliance there is incredible passion and great resources that will truly make a difference.

--Interview with Vanessa Mizell

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