How looking for cancer’s causes became a political act (Grist, 1/21/14)

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Our fearless leader Jeanne Rizzo was featured in a Grist Q&A about her unusual path to leading the Breast Cancer Fund, the challenges facing a prevention-focused organization in an early detection/treatment-centered breast cancer movement and more.

"Q. You ran the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, and worked as a music and film producer. How did you go from that to President and CEO of the Breast Cancer Fund?

A. Right — that’s a progression you wouldn’t expect to see on a resume. I started out as a nurse. I always did some pro bono volunteer work. I did a lot of work around AIDS. I held benefits at the Great American Music Hall. Later, many of the women who stepped up and volunteered to help with the AIDS epidemic began getting breast cancer diagnoses, so I began to work around that too.

Andrea Martin, who founded the Breast Cancer Action Fund, asked me to be on the board, and while I was there I did things like get the fund to go on the road with Lilith Fair. The whole time I was learning more, getting more into the science around breast cancer. I kept my nursing license up. Science doesn’t scare me. I know how to read a study.

Then, in 2001, I was at a board meeting and Andrea, the founder — something clearly wasn’t right. I took her to the hospital and it was a brain tumor. She lived for another two years, but she was never able to work again.

I told the board, I will stay on and manage this for three months, and then you have to find someone else. Then I said, 'Okay. I’ll stay for 18 months. After 18 months I won’t be here anymore.' We had a lot of missions back then. I cut out most of them and focused ours on the environment — the possible causes of cancer. To me it was obvious that we ought to be investing more in prevention."

Read on in the full article.

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