Angela Culhane steps up and takes charge at Prostate Cancer UK

The new chief executive tells Rebecca Cooney how the move from finance director to leading the charity was not a difficult choice to make

Angela Culhane
Angela Culhane

When Owen Sharp stepped down as chief executive of Prostate Cancer UK in October, Angela Culhane, then the finance director, was happy to step up temporarily. But, she says, she thought long and hard about putting herself forward to run the charity permanently.

"I needed to be sure it was right for me and I was right for it," she says. "There's no point in grabbing a job because you can, and then not being successful. But I learned so much while acting up and I loved being able to get involved with strategy and research. I really enjoyed the variety and opportunity to talk to supporters and those affected by the disease - an opportunity that I didn't have as finance director."

Culhane also has a personal reason driving her enthusiasm for the charity's work in fighting what is predicted to be the most common cancer by 2030. "My father-in-law and his father both died of prostate cancer, so my husband and son are both genetically loaded - if a family member suffers from it, you are two and half times more likely to get it yourself," she says. "I think that brings a passion for the cause and the urgency to get it sorted out."

Even though she had always wanted to work for a charity, Culhane was employed in the private sector until 2014 when her mother passed away. "I was talking at her funeral about all the things she had done, and it made me stop and think, 'right, if that's what I want to do, I've got to go and get on with it'," Culhane says.

She originally trained as a chartered accountant and so, she says, brings an accountant's "traditional bag of skills" to her new role. "Accountants expect to be audited and welcome it," she says. "You're used to having to be transparent about things, and good governance and value for money come as part of that, so that sits very well with charity."

One of Culhane's favourite things about the organisation, she says, is that it is not "stuffy" and is prepared to move its cause forward - a relentless forward movement that shows no sign of letting up, she says - not even to let its new chief executive a moment to catch her breath.

"We launched our strategy, Ten Years to Tame Prostate Cancer, the day after I was appointed permanently, so it was a really exciting time to join the charity," she says. "I was part of developing that strategy. It's a privilege to lead the charity in the urgent job of trying to tame prostate cancer so it won't be a killer and so the next generation of men like my own son won't need to fear it."

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