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Q&A with Lori van Dam, Interim CEO for Susan G. Komen Massachusetts®

Harbus-LogoIn honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, HBS Partner & Harbus CMO, Megan Fairbank, sat down with Lori van Dam, Susan G. Komen Massachusetts® Interim CEO, to talk about the organization’s work, developments, and how the Harvard Business School & greater Boston communities can get involved in such an important cause.

Megan Fairbank: What is Susan G. Komen Massachusetts’ main message to Massachusetts residents about pink ribbonbreast cancer?

Lori van Dam: Susan G. Komen Massachusetts is committed to supporting local women and their families through the breast cancer journey and raising awareness about breast cancer. Currently, Massachusetts has the second highest incidence of breast cancer in the U.S. and each year, an additional 5,000 Massachusetts women are diagnosed. Women diagnosed with breast cancer at an early stage have a 99% chance of survival. That is why it is so important to do regular self-checks, notify your physician immediately with any breast concerns and to never skip your annual mammograms. Early detection is the best protection.

MF: What excites Susan G. Komen Massachusetts the most about breast cancer research right now?

LVD: Komen has recently announced our research grants for the upcoming year. These grants fund researchers investigating hot topics such as metastatic disease, why tumors develop drug resistance, biological and socioeconomic health disparities and so much more. We are proud to say that Komen is currently funding $26 million in breast cancer research in the Commonwealth.

MF: What are some misconceptions about breast cancer?

LVD: It is untrue that genes are the biggest indicator of breast cancer. In fact, only 5-10% of breast cancer cases are attributed to hereditary gene mutations. Ultimately, we don’t know what causes breast cancer. What we do know is that being female and growing older are the most significant risk factors and that limiting alcohol use and maintaining regular exercise and a healthy diet can lower your risk of breast cancer some.

Photo courtesy of Susan G Komen

Photo courtesy of Susan G Komen

MF: What is the best way for Harvard Business School’s students, professors, and greater community to support Susan G. Komen? Can you highlight some opportunities in the Boston area?

LVD: There isn’t just one way to get involved. Those interested in joining the local fight against breast cancer can take part in a local event as a participant or as a volunteer, or by making a tax-deductible donation. Hosting your own fundraising event is a great way to get your network engaged. As far as local opportunities, Komen Massachusetts has a brand new initiative in 2015 called Pink Tie Guys. Pink Tie Guys, presented in partnership with Lexus of Watertown, is an exclusive group of local men committed to fighting breast cancer right here in Massachusetts. Pink Tie Guys will be honored on November 5th in Boston and presented with an official Komen Pink Tie. Registration and more information is available at

MF: Many of Harvard Business School’s alumni, students, and their family and friends work for companies that offer your ‘Matching Gift Program’. How can they check to see if their employer participates in this program?

LVD: Applying for a matching gift is an easy way to often double your gift. The process can be different for each company. The best way to get started is to contact your company’s Human Resources Department.


October 21, 2015
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