Got pink ribbon fatigue? Don't tell that to Nancy Brinker, U.S. Chief of Protocol and founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure (named after her sister, who died of breast cancer). Brinker--whose day job includes hosting visiting dignitaries in the U.S. and keeping an eye on our cowboy president abroad--has a new crusade: medical diplomacy. She gives us the lowdown.
MC: You started Komen, which funds more breast-cancer research than anyone except the U.S. government. Haven't you done enough?
NB: I'm totally gratified and thrilled, but we still need to address the economic and social disparities in cure rates. I don't consider it a success when treatment still costs $50,000 to $100,000 per patient. About 70 percent of deaths now occur in undeveloped countries. We need to share our medical knowledge with them, because it's the right thing to do, and because there's no limit to the goodwill it will foster around the world.
MC: So who are you working with?
NB: We have an excellent program in Jordan. In Hungary, they wanted to revise the old communist health system, so the program is blossoming--we're changing the culture of the illness, encouraging screening, improving treatment. We're now in 50 countries, and we're training volunteers in others.
MC: What drives you, 26 years in, to keep the fight alive?
NB: I spent time raising a family, then caring for my ailing father. Now I love representing my country; it's the greatest honor of my life. I'm not a social person--I work so hard that sometimes that part of my life goes by the wayside. But I'd be miserable just thinking about me all the time.