Inside Edith Sanford

What a difference a year makes – and two makes even more

By Kimberly Simpson

December 11, 2013

President Kimberly SimpsonHave you ever taken a chance? Just weighed all the pros and cons, and then rolled the dice in your life or career?

That’s what I did almost two years ago (January 9, 2012, to be exact). I had accepted a job with a great mission — to launch a foundation to raise support for next generation breast cancer research — and with a great health system behind the mission that has the capacity to deploy findings in practice and help raise the standard of care in breast cancer.

I packed up my car and drove 12 hours straight north from Dallas, Texas. Growing up in the South, and having lived in California and Texas most of my adult life, I was a little scared, not just of a new job and whether it would live up to what I thought it would be, but of cold weather. I soon grew to love the job, and, well, I’m still working on the winter weather!

When I arrived, our biobank was up and running. Soon after my arrival, we added Dr. Brian Leyland-Jones, a renowned physician-scientist, to lead the Edith Sanford research efforts. He began to recruit his team, and I began to recruit a team to help us spread the word to our future donors and constituents.

That year, we announced a partnership with the Scripps Research Institute, our team’s research made the cover of Drug Targets, and the Foundation announced alliances with corporate partners such as Arena Swimwear and Julep. Many donors saw the promise in our genomics research, and our message of 100% to the Cure assured donors that their dollars would be put right to work.

In my second year, we gained significant momentum. Our research team presented abstracts at meetings of major organizations, like the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO), and published more of our research findings. We also recruited (again from Texas) a director of our Certified Genomics Lab, who will work with our biobank to do deep genomic profiling that can be used in patient care. At the same time, we began a transformation across Sanford Health’s large geographic footprint to set the stage for revolutionizing breast care, connecting research and patient care so that we can deploy genomics research faster.

We also announced a very significant partnership with the Athena Breast Care Network, a collaboration involving five University of California medical centers, that will help us better determine risk for patients today and make personalized risk assessment a reality for all women in the future. We are the first partner for the network outside of California, and the first non-academic medical center to be a part of this prestigious group that will transform risk assessment and therefore risk reduction for women in this country. Talk about a big step forward!

On the Foundation side, we have grown as well, launching initiatives like TeamEdith™, which allows those participating in sporting events of any kind to represent us and, if they choose, raise funds from friends and family in support of breast cancer research. We held events in Sioux Falls, Denver and New York City to introduce Edith Sanford to new audiences. We created a group of 14 amazing thought leaders for a council that is helping us with our national efforts. We benefited from triathlons on the East Coast, and groups from Las Vegas to New York raised funds for the mission.

We also announced a significant partnership with Competitor Group, Inc., owner of the Women’s Running Series, and were named charity partner for their 2014 events, beginning with Women’s Running San Diego Half Marathon on February 22, 2014. Finally, with thanks to many of you, we have more than 50,000 fans on Facebook, and thousands have signed our online petitions to raise the standard of care in breast cancer.

In 2014, there is much more to come as we move quickly into the deeper use of genomics for breast cancer research and care. I am so glad that I took a chance on an idea—an idea that Denny Sanford supported in honor of his mother, Edith, and an idea that a large health system decided to tackle with all the “can do” spirit of Silicon Valley. I am so glad that you are taking this journey to find the cures with us.

In this time of reflection and celebration, let’s rejoice in our advances and pause before we run the next lap of the race. Because if the first year was great, and the second year was tremendous, then the third year will be monumental!

Thank you again for being part of the team, and happy holidays to you and yours!