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Ambassador Brinker, Susan G. Komen for the Cure Founder, Inspires ASSE’s 100th Anniversary Chicago Conference Attendees

Posted in on Fri, Jun 24, 2011

At the record-breaking American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) Professional Development Conference (PDC)  and Exposition’  held in Chicago last week  ASSE celebrated its 100th anniversary with more than 4,000 safety professionals,   475 exhibitors from across the globe and some  special guest speakers. One of those speakers, Ambassador Nancy Goodman Brinker, a native of Peoria, IL, took to the main stage on Tuesday, June 14, to share the inspiring story of how and why she founded  Susan G. Komen for the Cure  and the power of one person to make a difference.  .

You have chosen an important, but sometimes overlooked profession, one which on a good day nothing happens if you’ve done your job and all goes well, “ Brinker said as she addressed a large crowd of safety professionals in the Skyline Ballroom at McCormick Place. Her presentation about the trials and tribulations of her sister Susan G. Komen’s fight against breast cancer and Brinker’s own fight to raise awareness about the deadly disease, struck a chord with many in the audience.

Brinker’s story began when she was a young child, planning a talent show with her sister Susan to benefit their neighborhood friends who suffered from polio.  She learned to become a fundraiser through selling tickets and trying to be a steward in her community Twenty years after their debut talent show, Brinker’s sister was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33 and succumbed to the disease in 1980, just three  years after her diagnosis.  Brinker made a promise to her sister  that she would stop at nothing to end breast cancer and began her journey during a time when discussion about the disease was often avoided due to social stigma and a lack of understanding.

Brinker began  Susan G. Komen for the Cure at her home, with the small amount of the money used to start the organization pilfered from her grocery budget.  “I promised my sister that if it takes me the rest of my life, I will do this,” Brinker said.   Brinker went door-to-door, garnered support and challenged officials worldwide to acknowledge a disease that was affecting millions of women, their families and friends.  The Susan G. Komen foundation has raised more than $2 billion dollars for breast cancer research, education and services and has thousands of volunteers working globally to support the cause.  The early detection five-year survival rate for those diagnosed with breast cancer is now at 98% and new breakthroughs in medical technology and medicines to fight breast cancer are being researched daily.

Brinker compared her journey with the daily work of safety professionals. When she began her foundation, she faced adversity and those who refused to acknowledge that breast cancer was a non-contagious, serious disease affecting millions of women all over the world. “Safety professionals face some of the same challenges we faced when we began our foundation.  You need your companies and colleagues to adopt a mindset, and often must stand firm in the face of adversity. Your success relies on your ability to stay focused. In your own work, your own lives, never doubt the power you have to set and achieve goals. One person can change the world,” she said.

Brinker noted through Susan G. Komen for the Cure and its Race for the Cure, millions of people have been reached and millions of women diagnosed with, and surviving, breast cancer have been given hope for the future. She noted that each day safety professionals reach millions of people worldwide as they work diligently to ensure workers return home safely injury and illness free to their families and friends each day. At times, safety professionals are faced with the challenge of persuading those who do not see the value in safety as part of a company’s bottom line and value profit more than safety of their employees. These professionals persevere to raise awareness, recognize hazards and provide valuable solutions to help workers avoid injury and illness on the job.  Overall, Brinker’s message was a clear call to action for not only safety professionals, but each individual to stand up for what they believe in and approach challenges with determination.

Founded in 1911 and celebrating its centennial, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the oldest professional safety society and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment.  Its more than 33,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members lead, manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor, healthcare and education.  For more information, please go to and to view the new ASSE – A Century of Safety film go to  For information on  Susan G. Komen for the Cure, go to



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