Editor’s note: Today we announced that PanCAN Board of Directors member Michael Korengold has begun his term as board chair as of July 1, 2022, and that supporter Linda Amuso has joined the board. Below, we asked Michael to share with us more about his motivation and vision in his new role as board chair; you can read more about Michael in this previously published story. (Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we also sit down with Linda to learn more about her!)
PanCAN: Michael, tell us why you are involved with PanCAN.
Michael: I lost my mother to pancreatic cancer in 1995, before PanCAN was founded. Years later, when I was thinking about causes that I wanted to support, pancreatic cancer stood out. I did a lot of research, learned about PanCAN and saw that they were the leader in the space. I called Julie Fleshman [PanCAN President and CEO] and told her I was interested in getting involved. She invited me to attend PanCAN Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., and I did. I couldn’t believe that there were hundreds of people there to support the pancreatic cancer cause. It gave me a tremendous sense of hope and that was exciting to see.
PanCAN: What impresses you most about this pancreatic cancer community that you’ve come to be a part of?
Michael: Definitely that sense of hope that I found at my first Advocacy Day experience. And also, resilience and perseverance. It’s incredible the progress that has been made in the fight against pancreatic cancer. For years, people had little cause for optimism or a true belief that we could make progress. But the pancreatic cancer community has stayed focused and thankfully, it’s paying off. We are seeing the survival rate increase, and there is more awareness of the disease than ever before.
PanCAN: As you step into the chair position for PanCAN’s board, what motivates you?
Michael: Being a part of the progress that we’re making in the fight against this terrible disease. I’m motivated by the tangible improvement in the survival rate, by the expansion of clinical trials – including PanCAN Precision PromiseTM – PanCAN’s efforts at early detection through its Early Detection Initiative, the free services and resources PanCAN provides patients, and, more than anything, the increased sense of hope in place of the belief that a pancreatic cancer diagnosis is a death sentence.
PanCAN: Aside from your first PanCAN Advocacy Day experience, which made an impression, can you share another highlight from your time on the Board?
Michael: It’s been the chance to work alongside such talented board members and staff and to work with and learn from pancreatic cancer survivors. This disease affects so many people, as it affected me, but the survivors have obviously not only experienced it directly, they give inspiration to others who get the diagnosis.
PanCAN: What would your mother say about your work with PanCAN?
Michael: Well, my mom had a great sense of humor so I’m sure the first thing she’d say is that she wished there was no reason for me to be involved with PanCAN at all – as we all would. That said, my mom was a “doer” and extremely active in the community, so I know she’d be very proud that I became a part of PanCAN to contribute, in some small part, to the fight against the disease. I think she would also be blown away by how far we’ve come in this fight, 27 years after her death.
PanCAN: What is your vision/what do you hope to accomplish as PanCAN Board Chair?
Michael: My hope, first and foremost, is to continue the incredible work that the organization has done since its inception. That said, each chair and board member bring a different perspective, derived from their experiences, and I hope that my experience in the business community can be a helpful perspective in this role.
PanCAN’s growth and the breadth of its impact has been breathtaking, but rapid growth brings different types of challenges and I hope to be able to help the organization navigate the unique issues that it may face today.