NEWSMAKER: An apostle of science - Pamela Goldberg, Chief executive, Breast Cancer Campaign

Annie Kelly

Pamela Goldberg has a mission - to make science sexy. "Look at her," she says, pointing to a photograph of a young female scientist pictured on the front of the charity's annual report. "She's young, she's attractive and she's a far cry from the popular image of a stuffy old scientist hidden away in a lab."

The charity wants to promote ambitious young scientists working in the field of breast cancer and has recently launched a PhD sponsorship scheme. But Goldberg is also committed to increasing public awareness of the importance of investing in medical research.

"Donating money to a particular charity is a deeply personal thing," she says. "We're asking people to take a leap of faith by investing money in research, and it's as important that they connect with this element of our work as it is that they understand the message of our awareness campaigns."

She explains that this multi-faceted approach is part of the philosophy of the charity, which uses a jigsaw piece as its emblem. "We're building up pieces of the jigsaw and slowly a picture will emerge," she says. "When I initially got involved with the charity in the early 90s, we saw a gap in the market for an organisation that tried to fund the kind of research that others couldn't support. I see the charity as the venture capitalist of the breast cancer world. We take a really proactive approach in making sure that brave, innovative research is happening."

Goldberg's life has always been immersed in science. She was born and raised in South Africa, where her father was an eminent surgeon. In early childhood, she wanted to be the next Marie Curie, but soon realised that she didn't have the patience for a life in medical research.

"My mother died of cancer and my father was always involved in research into the disease, so it's always been a big issue for me," she says. "When I accepted the job as chief executive, I didn't have a five-year strategy planned out, I just knew that, although we were a small charity, there was such an enormous amount of work to do. So we had to find our niche and then go for it."

She followed an unusual route to the role of chief executive. While working as a management consultant in London, she became a trustee of the charity, which was then a small operation with only three employees.

With her management experience, it made sense for Goldberg to step in as interim chief executive during the search for a full-time candidate, and she was offered the job a year later.

"I accepted immediately because it is the first job I've had which hasn't bored me," she says. "We understood that it was strange for someone to move from trustee to chief executive and consulted with the Charity Commission to make sure they had no problem with it."

She says that her experience as a trustee has proved extremely valuable, and believes it enables her to take a holistic view of the operations and working dynamics at the charity.

"I still haven't totally shaken off my trustee mindset, but that's fine with me," she says. "As a charity chief executive it's easy to become blinkered, but I understand how trustee boards operate and I know how the dynamic between management and trustees should work. It can be a wonderful, constructive relationship if handled properly."

Her optimism about the potential for harmonious working relationships extends to Breast Cancer Campaign's standing with its peers. She takes a determined line on the issue of potential confusion over the proliferation of breast cancer charities.

"Does it really matter that people get a bit confused about which charity is which?" she says. "Everyone is working for the same cause at the end of the day and we have no desire to be the only breast cancer charity around.

"The big difference between the commercial and the voluntary sector is that in business you have to smash the competition, but in the voluntary sector it's not like that. There are no bad causes."

Unfortunately, the recent case of Breast Cancer Relief and Breast Cancer Research Scotland, both of which are under investigation for gross mismanagement of funds, highlights the dangers of public confusion about breast cancer organisations.

All the major breast cancer charities, inclu-ding Breast Cancer Campaign, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Cancer Research UK and Breast Cancer Care, felt forced to complain to the Charity Commission after receiving complaints from supporters who mistakenly accused their charities of aggressive fundraising tactics.

"Breast cancer has become a high-profile cause that is beginning to attract large donations, and where there is money there will be problems," she says. "The recent cases just show that we have to build even stronger relationships with our supporters to convince them that we're working only for the cause."

At the end of the day, says Goldberg, all breast cancer charities are working through the women who support the cause, and it is down to their strength and determination that awareness of the disease has rocketed over the past decade.

"I remember reading a strapline of a US magazine that said, 'never underestimate the power of a woman', and this is something I've come to agree with during my time here," she says. "Over the past five years, I've been astounded by the bravery of women who can say, 'it's too late for me, but not for others'. It is those women that we are here to honour through our work."


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