Komen CEO Leaves, 3 Days After New Federal Cancer Guidelines

November 19, 2009       Mark Hrywna      

Hala Moddelmog, president and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a leading national breast cancer awareness organization, has resigned. The departure was announced just three days after the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued its controversial updated mammogram guidelines. The organization did not announce plans for selecting Moddelmog’s long-term replacement. Komen Founder and Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker will take a more active leadership role in conjunction with the board of directors and senior leadership, according to a statement from the organization.

Komen spokesperson Emily Callahan said that Brinker has already taken a very active role, especially handling media requests to comment on the revised guidelines, as has Eric P. Winer, M.D., Komen’s chief scientific advisor.

Callahan said that Moddelmog decided to resign for personal reasons and to spend more time with family, especially since Komen is based in Dallas and Moddelmog’s home is in Atlanta. Callahan said the resignation did not have anything to do with the new guidelines.

Sources told The NonProfit Times that Moddelmog had a few months left on a three-year contract. There was a regularly scheduled board meeting on Tuesday (11/17) and she was gone by the end of that meeting, according to sources. Staff was told at 4:30 p.m. that day that she had resigned.

The sources said that the departure was not about the new mammogram guidelines but overall direction of the organization. Messages to Moddelmog have been unanswered.

USPSTF released its modified guidelines regarding mammograms on Monday to update its prior guidelines made in 2002. The newest guidelines include advising against routine screening mammography in women 40 to 49 years old, partially due to the increased number of false positives in that age demographic, but said the “decision to start regular, biennial screening mammography before the age of 50 years should be an individual one and take patient context into account.” Prior guidelines recommended routine screening for women 40 years and older.

The USPSTF also recommended biennial screening for women ages 50 to 74 instead of the prior position for annual screenings. USPSTF also advised against teaching breast self-examination.

The Komen Scientific Advisory Board posted its perspective about the USPSTF recommendations on Komen’s Web site, which acknowledged “a longstanding debate” about age and frequency of examinations, but recommended that “as with all screening tests, the decision to perform a mammogram must include an evaluation of the benefits and the risks of the screening tool, as well as a consideration of patient preference.”

The perspective also included, “We want to eliminate any impediments to regular mammography screening for women age 40 and older. It is our view, however, that the exact timing of assessments is less important than guaranteeing access to screening. New screening approaches and more individualized recommendations for breast cancer screening are urgently needed. Susan G. Komen for the Cure supports research initiatives designed to improve screening, and we believe that it is imperative that this research move forward rapidly.”

Atlanta, Ga-based American Cancer Society (ACS) has taken a stronger stance against the USPSTF guidelines. ACS Chief Medical Officer Otis W. Brawley, M.D., said in a statement that the organization continues to recommend annual screening mammography and clinical breast examination for all women beginning at age 40.

“Hala deserves tremendous praise for the work she has done in elevating the organization and the cause, especially the strengthening of our affiliate grassroots efforts – the backbone of Susan G. Komen for the Cure,” said Alexine Clement Jackson, chairperson of organization’s board of directors, in a statement. “The organization is incredibly strong financially and operationally and is poised for tremendous growth.”

In a statement released by the organization, Moddelmog said: “As a breast cancer survivor myself, I have said since the day I joined Komen that I consider this job as a gift…to give back to the breast cancer movement that has saved so many lives. … I feel the same today and remain committed to doing all I can to help end breast cancer forever.”

Moddelmog succeeded Susan Braun as president and CEO in September 2006. During Moddelmog’s tenure, Komen For the Cure has continued to grow and be among the largest nonprofits in the nation. Total revenue among its 125 affiliates was $242 million for the Fiscal Year Ending March 2006 compared to $305 million for the Fiscal Year Ending March 2008, according to the most recent available tax forms. Last year, she earned almost $482,000 in total compensation as president and CEO.

A former Fortune 500 executive, Moddelmog also is a breast cancer survivor. During her time at Komen, the organization established the Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s Scientific Advisory Board and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Global Promise Fund.

A pioneer in cause marketing and event fundraising, the organization was known as the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation since its inception in 1982 until a rebranding and renaming effort in conjunction with its 25th anniversary.

Prior to joining the Komen, Moddelmog was founder and CEO of Catalytic Ventures, a private equity firm that consulted and invested in the food service industry. She was the first woman in corporate America to lead an international Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) brand in 1995 when she was appointed president of Church’s Chicken, a division of Atlanta-based AFC Enterprises. She subsequently led Church’s to record sales and profit performance. She also held executive management and marketing positions at Church’s Chicken, Arby’s Franchise Association and BellSouth.

Moddelmog served on the boards of Leadership Atlanta, the Atlanta Police Foundation, B.B. King Museum Foundation and Women Looking Ahead magazine. She is a recipient of the Women’s Foodservice Forum Emerging Leader Award, the International Franchise Association Bonny LeVine Award, the Restaurant Hospitality Rising Star Award and the Roundtable for Women in Foodservice Pacesetter Award. She received the Women of Achievement Award in 2003 from the YMCA of Greater Atlanta.