GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer, the Washington DC / San Francisco area—based entity resulting from the April 2019 merger of the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (ALCF) and the Lung Cancer Alliance, is America’s largest non-profit devoted exclusively to eradicating lung cancer. A lung cancer survivor herself, co-founder & Chair of the Board Bonnie Addario established the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (ALCF) in 2006 and has raised more than $30 million toward the cause. Leveraging her executive leadership skills honed in the petroleum industry, Bonnie has now become an important voice in solving lung cancer, the #1 most lethal cancer in the world. In support of its mission of research, early detection, education and treatment, she has assembled a team of scientists, clinicians and physicians racing to make a difference.
To help launch GO2 Foundation, a $15 million challenge grant was recently provided in memory of Skip Viragh, a financial entrepreneur. This grant, the largest single gift ever for lung cancer, will support GO2 Foundation’s vital work that empowers people, increases survival, and drives innovative research. Additional funding for the merger was provided by matching donors and the SeaChange-Lodestar Fund for Nonprofit Collaboration.
Click on the video below to listen to Laurie Fenton Ambrose and Bonnie Addario talk more about the launch of GO2 Foundation.
As part of our ongoing series of interviews with healthcare industry trailblazers, Slone Partners is pleased to present our exclusive session with Ms. Addario.
Slone Partners: As the former President of Olympian Oil Company and Commercial Fueling Network (CFN) and now Chair of a foundation, what’s it like being in the very complicated business of healthcare, scientific research and education? What experience in leadership, operations and finance carries through? Are there any surprising overlaps between oil and healthcare?
Ms. Addario: The business side – planning, budgeting, profit & loss, etc. – is not that much different. The big difference with running this foundation is the customer is the patient. They need and want to live. To survive, they need to get the right care and the right drug at the right time. That isn’t as easy as it may sound. High prices of treatments, insurance companies, and distribution through third and fourth parties make taking care of patients difficult. If, for instance, they are buying a car, they can wait for months to have it delivered, but that isn’t the case here. Patients simply can’t wait and work through the bureaucracy. Time is of the essence, and the ability to pay is a serious constraint.
Slone Partners: On your website and in your foundation’s collateral, your introduction by way of title always includes “Lung cancer survivor.” Why is it so important to be explicit about your personal challenge? And what can you tell us about your journey of diagnosis, surgery and treatment that altered your life’s purpose?
Ms. Addario: Surviving lung cancer has been the single most important thing I have ever done, allowing me to help many other patients, enjoy my family and live well beyond where I thought I would. I was diagnosed with a tumor on my heart and subclavian artery and was told by several doctors there was nothing that could be done for me. I fought, I educated myself, and I kept asking someone to give me a chance to survive. An amazing physician in San Francisco once asked, “Bonnie, what do you want from me?” I told him that if I was going to die from this disease, I didn’t want it to be because I did nothing. He listened, put together an amazing team of doctors, and here I am today. This altered my life’s purpose to become an advocate to see that all patients get the chance I did. Through the work of GO2 Foundation, I want to ensure patients receive the information they need to fight their cancer and to offer the kind of support that empowers patients to advocate for themselves. As we enter the era of personalized medicine, lung cancer is leading the way in using genetic profiling to guide very personalized treatment.
Slone Partners: It’s a point of pride that GO2 Foundation is patient-founded, patient-focused, and patient-driven, but to achieve your mission, you must involve donors, clinicians, pharma, biotech, payers, government, and public and private enterprise. How do you align so many different interests when you’re in a race to save or extend the lives of real patients you personally know?
Ms. Addario: At GO2 Foundation, we believe that all stakeholders, from patients to researchers, to the medical community and policymakers, must be aligned so that they work together to find answers, with the understanding that comes from listening and sharing multiple perspectives. Collaboration is invaluable in the exhaustive fight against lung cancer. And you don’t stop trying to pull all of these entities together. It is a never-ending day-to-day process but we are making a great deal of progress. The FDA has approved more new drugs for lung cancer in the last five years than the last five decades. One of the reasons this is happening is that patients are getting more involved, not only in their own cancer, but in other patients’ journeys as well. Patients are coming together and putting a face on this disease that represents the complete antithesis of what people had previously believed. They are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, firemen and women, teachers, young people just starting out in their lives, doctors, scientists… just like you and me.
Slone Partners: The statistics are sobering: lung cancer is cancer’s #1 killer; 234,000 new diagnoses a year with a 5-year survival rate at 19%; and 10-15% of new cancer cases are among those who have never smoked. How do you get 34 million Americans to stop smoking and reach former smokers?
Ms. Addario: I don’t understand why as a society we are still talking about smoking only for people with lung cancer. Smoking is also the biggest cause of heart disease, vascular disease, and many cancers. Singling out lung cancer as only for people who smoke is killing people. Because of this misconception, diagnoses are happening later. No one should smoke. We need to teach young people not to start smoking; smoking is very bad for everyone’s health, including second hand smoke. Actually, the fact about smoking and lung cancer is that 70% of the newly diagnosed patients have either never smoked or quit smoking decades ago. We must remove the stigma that comes with lung cancer and the attitude that assumes we know what causes it and how to stop it. It’s misguided and so far from the truth.
Slone Partners: Between public speaking engagements, participating in GO2 Foundation walk/run events, throwing grassroots fundraisers, hosting your annual gala, and playing in your annual golf tournament, you’re really out there as a face of change, as an ambassador. Is government intervention the answer? Or can you inspire policy change (only 6% of all Federal government funding of cancer research is directly allocated to lung cancer) just as effectively from the private sector?
Ms. Addario: We recently gathered almost 200 lung cancer patients and advocates and stormed Capitol Hill to teach politicians about lung cancer. Historically, they’ve listened to AIDS patients and others, and now they will listen to us.
Slone Partners: What makes you personally happy?
Ms. Addario: What makes me happy is knowing that I have not wasted one minute of my life. I love my work, I love my family, and I love being challenged. The fact that I am a patient as well as an advocate makes me a ‘go to’ person for many people. I am happiest when I am able to help a patient and change their outcome. We will win this one!
About Slone Partners
Slone Partners delivers the leaders who build amazing organizations – People Are Our Science™. Since 2000, Slone Partners specializes in delivering world-class C-suite leadership, executive, and upper management talent to the most promising and established life sciences, research, diagnostics, precision medicine and laboratory services companies. With coast-to-coast presence in the most active healthcare industry hubs of Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Dallas, Research Triangle Park NC, and Washington DC, Slone Partners uniquely and precisely provides an array of executive search and advisory services to exceptional clients. Our full suite of services includes identifying, negotiating with, onboarding, and relocating talent, in addition to post-placement mentoring, success monitoring, and culture fit services.
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