April 12, 2021
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American Cancer Society names first female CEO

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American Cancer Society has named Karen Knudsen, MBA, PhD, as its first female CEO, the organization announced in a press release.

Knudsen, who currently serves as executive vice president of oncology services and enterprise director for Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Health, also will serve as CEO of American Cancer Society Action Network, which strives to make cancer a top priority nationwide by advocating for evidence-based policy change.

“Dr. Knudsen is exactly what the American Cancer Society needs right now,” John Alfonso, CPA, chair of the American Cancer Society Board of Directors, said in the release. “She is an accomplished researcher, innovative health care executive, dynamic leader of a prestigious cancer center and true thought leader in the fight against cancer nationwide.”

Karen Knudson
Karen Knudsen

Knudsen is president of the Association of American Cancer Institutes — an organization that advocates for cancer research funding and access to care — where she has focused on diversity and inclusion. She has served on the board of directors of the American Association for Cancer Research and the board of advisors of the NCI.

“As director of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Health, I've experienced firsthand how the American Cancer Society improves the lives of [patients with cancer] and their families through discovery, advocacy and direct patient support,” Knudsen said in the release. “I share the board of directors' vision to ensure that [the cancer society’s] impact benefits all people throughout the nation. With creativity, innovation and novel partnerships, we will accelerate the mission and save lives.”

Knudsen will begin her roles as CEO of American Cancer Society and its advocacy affiliate June 1 upon the retirement of Gary M. Reedy, who has held both positions since 2015.