Karen E. Knudsen, MBA, PhD, will be the next Chief Executive Officer of the American Cancer Society and its advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), starting June 1, 2021. She will take the reins from the retiring Gary Reedy, who has served as both organizations' Chief Executive Officer since 2015.
The hiring of a female Chief Executive Officer signals a new era for the 107-year-old American Cancer Society. Dr. Knudsen will also be the first scientific and oncology researcher to serve in the top staff position in the modern era.
Karen E. Knudsen, MBA, PhD
Record of Leadership
Dr. Knudsen currently serves as Executive Vice President of Oncology Services and Enterprise Director for Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Health. She also holds leadership roles with some of the most important cancer entities in the nation—she is the President of the Association of American Cancer Institutes, where her platform has focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, and serves on the Board of Directors for the American Association of Cancer Research and the Board of Advisors for the National Cancer Institute. She is active on committees for ASCO, in addition to serving on other academic and for-profit advisory boards. Dr. Knudsen holds a bachelor's degree in biology from the George Washington University; a PhD in biologic sciences from the University of California, San Diego; and an MBA from Temple University Fox School of Business.
"Dr. Knudsen is exactly what the American Cancer Society needs right now," said John Alfonso, CPA, Chair of the American Cancer Society Board of Directors. "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."
Dr. Knudsen expects to spend a great deal of time initially listening to and learning from the American Cancer Society's various stakeholders, but she's also eager to work with volunteers and staff to shape the vision and deliver tangible results.
"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 and their families through discovery, advocacy, and direct patient support," Dr. Knudsen said. "I share the Board of Directors' vision to ensure that the Society’s impact benefits all people throughout the nation. With creativity, innovation, and novel partnerships, we will accelerate the mission and save lives."
Dr. Knudsen will also serve as Chief Executive Officer of the ACS CAN, which advocates for evidence-based public policy change to make cancer a top nationwide priority. As a National Cancer Institute–funded researcher and the head of a major cancer research institution, she knows firsthand the critical role government plays in saving more lives from cancer. The Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI), for which Knudsen currently serves as President, is also an important voice in advocating for funding for cancer research and access to care, including patient access to research innovations. AACI is a member of the One Voice Against Cancer Coalition, which was founded by ACS CAN in 2000 to bring public health organizations together to advocate for greater federal investments in cancer research.