Alumna Sung Poblete thrilled a group of Rutgers School of Nursing honors students last week when she hosted them at a New York City screening of the acclaimed Ken Burns' series: Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies.
For Poblete, it was one of her proudest moments, a time to celebrate the first major-project decision she made four years ago after she became president and chief executive officer of Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), giving the go-ahead for PBS to produce the series with Burns as executive producer. The series, directed by Barak Goodman, was broadcast over three nights beginning March 30.The series had been the dream of the late Laura Ziskin, a co-founder of SU2C, the organization created to raise money for cancer research and new patient therapies through network television activities and online. Poblete was instrumental in SU2C’s decision to option the television rights that SU2C had obtained to The Emperor of All Maladies by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee to PBS and Burns. “What better way to help change the conversation than with Ken Burns and PBS. The program showcases cancer in a way that only Ken Burns can,” Poblete says.
To help the PBS series in its developmental phases, Poblete and her colleagues on the SU2C council of founders and advisers got support from 15 companies and organizations to provide financial assistance and other resources.
Poblete, who grew up in Piscataway, earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at the then Rutgers College of Nursing. She learned early on to take chances, put aside fears and think creatively -- assets, she says, that have aided her in fundraising activities. Her skills have helped SU2C generate approximately $370 million for research projects and allowed 5,200 cancer patients to participate in clinical trials and countless others to benefit from three FDA-approved medications developed as a result of SU2C scientific “dream teams.” Rutgers provided Poblete with her first teaching position at the College of Nursing, now the School of Nursing, where she continues as a visiting professor.After earning her doctorate, Poblete held a series of corporate positions, including at Oxford Health Plans Foundation, where as executive director she led grantmaking research initiatives and programming innovations for projects to improve health care delivery. Prior to joining SU2C in 2011, she had been director of clinical and translational programs at the American Association for Cancer Research, SU2C’s scientific partner.
Poblete hopes that Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies will ignite a new, stronger conversation about cancer in a way that greatly increases fundraising and enhances collaboration. “The PBS program goes through the history of cancer in such a meaningful way. It's amazing how therapies have moved forward in just 40 years,” Poblete says.
But, she adds, the public needs to understand how critical funding is to the effort. "I hope the message from the series is strong enough so that we become galvanized and people pick up the phone or email their congressman to support increased funding for cancer research."