A Conversation with Resigning CPIC CEO Sally Glaser

November 21, 2013

Sally GlaserHow did you become CPIC’s Chief Executive Officer?
I have always believed deeply in the importance of CPIC’s work and had been part of the internal leadership structure, but I did not personally seek the role of CEO. Five and a half years ago, while I was a research scientist at CPIC and Director of the Greater Bay Area Cancer Registry, the organization’s Board of Trustees asked me if I would take on the role on an interim basis. After six months, they asked if I would stay in the role permanently. Because I had a sense of what work might be done, and respected their view that I could help the organization, I committed to doing so.

What are you most proud of accomplishing during your tenure as CEO?
I appreciated the opportunity to help stabilize some important administrative aspects of the organization when I became CEO. I called upon consultants to help us undertake an organizational-wide review, which had never before been done, to assess CPIC’s culture and function. Through that process, I believe we’ve strengthened how we function as a team toward our mission. The organization’s name change to the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, and the refocusing of our mission statement, in 2010 have fundamentally helped to clarify the nature and purpose of our work, for us and those we serve. I also am proud to have been a part of seating seven new Trustees on the CPIC Board and to have hired talented internal leaders at CPIC who have collectively helped us broaden our strengths.

What are some of CPIC’s other major successes during the past five years?
On an organizational level, we’ve changed the way we talk about CPIC to the outside world. We have a stronger sense of how our work advances our mission, which has helped us communicate about CPIC to our constituencies and to develop new avenues of financial support through exciting initiatives, such as the Get In Front campaign. That campaign has led to other successes like the Get In Front Performance, which – in addition to raising important funds for CPIC’s cancer prevention work, two years running – has allowed us to bring Get In Front into public consciousness.

Also in the past five years, we’ve had a variety of research successes, achieving national recognition for our research into cancer in Asian communities, and securing extensions of important projects like the Family Registry for Breast Cancer, the LEGACY Girls study, and the California Teachers Study. We also were awarded contract renewals from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results program and from the state government to operate our cancer registry, one of the mainstays of our work.

Discuss some challenges you faced during your tenure as CEO.
The role of CEO involved some functions that I had not had experience with as a research scientist – for example, I had not previously been involved with marketing or the broader finances of the organization. CPIC has always been squarely focused on our cancer prevention work, and before I became CEO, the organization had not directed much attention to telling the world about our work. I believe our efforts to make the public more aware of our work and our findings are important—as tax payers, they have supported the research, deserve to know more about it, and should have the opportunity to support the organization. We have made significant progress in this area.

How did you reach your decision to step down from your role as CEO?
I made the decision to step down because I think it’s good for organizational leadership to be renewed occasionally with a fresh perspective. Also, I remain in my heart a research scientist and I’m eager to be able to refocus my energies on research at CPIC. But I have been proud to be able to lead and represent CPIC and to contribute in an active way to its forward motion, because I believe in CPIC and care about its work. I have valued the relationships I have developed with the CPIC leadership team and others I’ve interacted closely with as CEO.

What are you most looking forward to in returning to a more sustained focus on your research?
In addition to continuing as Director of the Greater Bay Area Cancer Registry at CPIC – a critical data source of research at CPIC and other institutions – I am looking forward to reinvigorating my studies of Hodgkin lymphoma and breast cancer, and to working with colleagues on other projects.

What are your hopes for CPIC?
The very high quality research and other cancer-related work that CPIC does so we can Get In Front of cancer is critical. Even as government funding sources for research diminish, I hope we’re able to continue this innovative work, as well as advance its scope, by diversifying our funding opportunities and obtaining additional support from the public. I also hope CPIC is able to maintain and enhance its community-related outreach efforts, including service, information dissemination, and education.