Two Decades of Service… and Counting

Nov 11, 2011 2:10 PM ET

Two Decades of Service… and Counting

November 10, 2011   by the Executive Leadership Team of the American Cancer Society

Cynthia M. LeBlanc, Ed.D., M.A., of Richmond, California, is the first African American woman to assume the role of board chair of the American Cancer Society.

I am honored to assume the role of Chair of the National Board of the American Cancer Society. I have the opportunity to lead this organization, along with President Phil Evans, M.D. and CEO John Seffrin, Ph.D.

I am humbled to think that I am among three million volunteers for the American Cancer Society. When I started my journey with ACS more than 24 years ago, I knew little about cancer, but the mission of the Society was something I could support. My parents had already instilled in me the principle of community involvement. Little did I know that over the years, cancer would have such a huge impact on my family. Just as my mother was recovering from her second mastectomy, she became the primary caregiver for my dad after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Both of my parents eventually died of cancer, and of my mother’s eight brothers and sisters, five were diagnosed with cancer. I know the impact this disease can have on a family.

As I assume this position, I reflect on the years of service I have already dedicated at the regional, state and national levels, coupled with my 36 successful years within the public school system as an educator, teacher, principal, administrator and superintendent.  I am grateful to have another leadership opportunity continuing a mission that is so important to me.

During the year I hope to engage our volunteers in new and interesting ways, building an organization-wide process to strengthen the recruitment, retention and development of volunteers.  I believe an important aspect is to increase our focus on the involvement of youth as leaders within the organization, so that we can harness their passion and energy to celebrate more birthdays.

This year will bring the establishment of enhanced relationships between staff and volunteers throughout the organization, across geographic boundaries and functions, and the key to this is good communication.  I am hoping we can build upon and replicate if possible the communication strategy initiated by the Society’s leadership.  Dr. Seffrin has previously stated that community presence is a nonnegotiable.  It is my hope, too, that we will strengthen our relationship, particularly, with diverse communities as we address the impact of cancer and do what we do best, help people stay well, get well, find cures and fight back.

There is an Ethiopian proverb that states “when spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.” I believe that we are building the spider webs, and as long as staff and volunteers continue to work together, we will tie up the lion and achieve our mission, the elimination of cancer.