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Giving Benefits Science & Society

Breakthroughs, Breakthroughs • Spring 2024
by Naedine Hazell


Development Spurs Progress

The excellence of the faculty and staffs at Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center and the generosity of the donors and volunteers—that’s what has impressed and inspired Susan Roux, in her first few months as Assistant VP of Cancer Fundraising.

Helping potential donors explore opportunities for giving means first understanding their goal and aligning those with the priorities at Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital. “Finding the place that they magically intersect—where need and intention really do meet. That’s where great things can happen,” said Roux, noting the many opportunities afforded by the distinctive YCC/Smilow partnership that supports pioneering clinical care informed by distinguished research by Yale scientists and physicians.

“[There’s] world-class expertise behind those laboratory doors devoted to some of the biggest problems in cancer. Because it’s Yale and the work is so outstanding, it’s the type of philanthropy that can really accelerate [research] and really make a difference,” said Roux, who is new to Yale since September, but not new to philanthropy having had leadership roles in development at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

“Our donors are our partners, so to not engage fully with them, then we’re just missing opportunities,” Roux said. “Our job as development professionals is to help our donors understand the impact that philanthropy can have.”

That impact can support many important initiatives that include community outreach to increase cancer awareness and screenings; a study of social determinants affecting diagnosis and treatment of the underserved or uninsured; a new support program for the burgeoning group of individuals diagnosed with cancer younger than age 50; or the breakthrough research that leads to novel therapies for patients.

“It is critical to spend the time to explain how philanthropy is so important to the whole continuum of research, education, patient care, and community outreach so that potential donors can envision the difference they want to make,” Roux said.

For example, donations that bolster a specific clinical program or a research program in its nascent stages are critical to help prove their value, making them eligible for future grant money.

“The NIH (National Institutes of Health) doesn’t fund good ideas,” Roux said. “It funds good ideas that have been shown to have a solid pathway that could lead to an important discovery” or, for example, make progress in addressing inequitable care.

Tightening research dollars means there is more competition for less. A June 2023 study published in The Lancet Oncology found that of the $24.5 billion in global cancer research money, allocated in the five-year period 2016-2020, funding “decreased year-on-year, with the largest drop observed between 2019 and 2020.”

Nearly nine months into her new job, Roux already has some overall goals, including increased stewardship, easier access for potential donors, and an expanded Director’s Council of outside advisors. New members would be people “who really want to roll up their sleeves and get educated about the work that’s happening here” including the impactful clinical programs and the scientific advances in treating and preventing cancer.

Increased stewardship will include more communication with donors, so that they are aware of progress being made in novel research thanks to their philanthropy.

“You can’t tell half a story. We need to share the impact that donors are having. We don’t want to stop at the gift being made,” Roux said. Taking someone along on the journey is very powerful and inspiring.

“People should know what a gem we have right here.”

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