David Arons, JD, was confirmed as the National Brain Tumor Society’s Chief Executive Officer on November 24, 2015. David had been serving in an interim role since mid-summer, and previously as Chief Public Policy & Advocacy Officer since 2011.
I came to NBTS in 2011, having already spent nearly two decades in the world of nonprofit advocacy and public policy. Most of my early career focused, generally, on how not-for-profits could – and should – use their unique positions as non-profit seeking entities to advocate for public policies that create positive change for the communities they serve.
After being touched personally by the one of the many-dreaded diseases we collectively know as cancer, I inevitably found my calling working specifically in cancer public policy and advocacy. This new endeavor began with the American Cancer Society’s Minnesota Chapter, where I served for a number of years as Director of Government Relations.
When the opportunity to join NBTS as Director of Public Policy and Advocacy emerged, I was eager to step into, and do what I could to help, a community that I saw as being underserved at the national level. More importantly, I saw a community that had great passion, dedication, and determination as well as an organization, in NBTS, which had cemented an impressive foundation and was ready to take the fight to the next level.
In the four years I spent in that position (and subsequently Chief Public Policy and Advocacy Officer) I was amazed at the level of engagement and support we received from researchers, clinicians, policymakers, industry executives, and most importantly patients, caregivers, and loved ones affected by brain tumors. Together with our volunteers and advocates, we’ve made significant progress over a relatively short period of time to advance brain tumor research. To highlight just a few of our impressive accomplishments, we have:
- Created a national advocacy program that now numbers more the 30,000 volunteers from across the U.S. who regularly call, email, write, and/or visit their representatives in Congress about the needs of the brain tumor community
- Created an annual Advocacy Day at the Capitol in D.C. to flood the halls of Congress with hundreds of brain tumor advocates
- Helped introduce oral chemotherapy parity legislation in Congress, and have attracted dozens of co-sponsors to these bills
- Helped introduce legislation that will improve research for pediatric brain tumors and cancers
- Helped realize a new funding stream for pediatric brain tumor research through the Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program
- Held workshops with leaders in brain tumor research and drug development, as well as the FDA, to discuss improving clinical trial endpoints for brain tumor clinical trials, out of which has already come a new Brain Tumor Imaging Protocol for basic magnetic resonance imaging during clinical trials
Importantly, we’ve seen NIH funding for brain cancer research increase from $280 million in 2011 to an estimated $299 million in FY2016.
Now, over the course of the past few months as interim Chief Executive Officer, I’ve had the privilege of broadening the scope of my work on behalf of the National Brain Tumor Society and the brain tumor community. And I continue to be inspired by our volunteers, including: racers, walkers, riders, advocates, research and medical advisors, board of directors, and more. You are the heart and soul of the community. Your commitment strengthens my resolve. I am honored to continue to serve this community and remain thankful for all of the support I have received.
And with last week’s announcement, now, of course, is a time to look toward the future. And I’m incredibly excited about what lies ahead.
I believe there is incredible scientific research and policy efforts currently unfolding in the brain tumor field, many led by NBTS, including our signature programmatic effort, the Defeat GBM Research Collaborative. And I believe the collective sum of these efforts will help NBTS reach our ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’ (a milepost on the ultimate quest for cures) of turning brain cancer into a chronic, manageable disease by 2025.
Moving forward, NBTS will remain acutely focused on funding and driving research forward that can benefit all brain tumor types, while doubling-down on our key initiatives, like Defeat GBM and others, that are focused on finding new ways to get better treatments to patients…and get them there faster. Everything we do will aim to enable more and better research – that is our roadmap.
The final point I want to reiterate from my remarks in the press release is that the last word in our organization’s name is very important. When NBTS was created in its current form through the merger of our legacy organizations, National Brain Tumor Foundation and Brain Tumor Society, we specifically kept the ‘Society’ as part of our new name for a reason: a society is something people can join; a society means we help and support each other. And we continue to welcome anyone who is interested in joining the fight to reach out connect with us. All are welcome; all are needed.
Together with our dedicated staff and supporters, I believe we can achieve a better future for those affected by brain tumors. As our latest motto goes: It’s Your Fight, It’s Our Fight.
Thank You For Your Commitment,
David F. Arons, JD
Chief Executive Officer