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Komen for the Cure names new CEO

DALLAS – Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced Monday that it has a new CEO.

The breast cancer charity named Judith A. Salerno to replace founder Nancy Brinker, whose promise to her dying sister begat a fundraising powerhouse that invested hundreds of millions of dollars in cancer research.

Brinker announced last summer she would step down following an onslaught of criticism over Komen’s quickly reversed decision to stop giving grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings.

Salerno, 61, is executive director and chief operating officer of the Institute of Medicine, a prestigious independent group that advises the government and private sector about health and science.

“Komen’s commitment has helped countless numbers of low-income and medically underserved women and men get care they might otherwise have gone without, and Komen’s research program is one of the most highly respected in the nation,” Salerno said in a statement released by Komen.

Brinker, 67, announced in August that she would move from the CEO role, which she’d held since 2009, into a new one focused on fundraising and strategic planning.

In late 2011, the Dallas-based charity decided to halt grants to Planned Parenthood, which received about $680,000 that year. News of the move caused a torrent of questions about the decision and calls for its reversal, angering Komen supporters on both sides of the abortion debate.

Three days after the initial disclosure, Komen reversed its course, which led to more harsh criticism, this time from abortion opponents accusing the charity of caving to public pressure.

Karen Handel, the group’s vice president and a conservative, resigned the following week and later wrote a blistering account of the episode entitled “Planned Bullyhood.”

Earlier this month, Komen announced it was canceling half of its three-day charity walks due to a drop in participation levels.

Komen spokeswoman Andrea Rader described Salerno on Monday as a good fit for the charity due to her experience in a range of areas, from public policy to community health. Asked about Salerno’s views on Planned Parenthood or the controversy over funding, Rader said Komen’s focus was on moving forward.

“That’s an issue that was settled a long time ago,” Rader said.

Planned Parenthood had no immediate comment on Salerno’s appointment.

Brinker founded the Dallas-based charity in honor of her sister, who died of breast cancer in 1980. It grew into a fundraising powerhouse. Its signature color of pink has become synonymous with breast cancer awareness.

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