Catherine Ormerod: A legacy of growth and empowerment
A great listener. A problem solver. A trustworthy partner, mentor, and friend.
That’s how Living Beyond Breast Cancer CEO Jean Sachs describes Catherine Ormerod, LBBC’s long-serving executive vice president for strategy and mission, who retires at the end of August 2023.
“For me, Cathy has been a part of my professional life both as a partner and a mentor — so many things,” Sachs recalls. “She hired me for my first job out of college at Women’s Way. Then, years later, I hired her. I’ll miss a lot about her, having someone you trust 100 percent."
“Cathy has an incredible work ethic and always wanted to make sure everything we put out there was the best it could be,” Sachs says. Having previously worked for Women’s Way, as director of the Nonprofit Executive Leadership Institute at Bryn Mawr College, and as director of National Programs for Drexel College of Medicine’s Vision 2020, Ormerod brought a diverse skill set that combined marketing, program development and leadership.
“Cathy challenged us to push the boundaries of what’s possible for people with breast cancer,” says Janine Guglielmino, LBBC’s former vice president of mission delivery. “She was interested in finding solutions and focusing on what could happen rather than what couldn’t. I’ll miss talking with her about exciting new things we could do because she’s good to bounce ideas off of to think about making change that is possible.”
In her current role and previously as LBBC’s director of education (1999-2001), Ormerod helped shape LBBC into the organization it is today, giving hundreds of people affected by breast cancer the knowledge and platform to advocate for themselves and others.
Ormerod conceived of and developed Hear My Voice, the LBBC leadership program that acknowledges the unique psychosocial challenges that people with metastatic breast cancer face and provides the tools and support for participants to share their lived experience with their own circles and beyond.
“When she proposed Hear My Voice, she had this amazing concept and I knew it was going to be powerful, but I didn’t realize how powerful it was going to be,” said Guglielmino. Within a week of launching the program in 2015, LBBC had 100 applications for 25 spots. “It’s made a significant difference to the metastatic community,” she adds. “Many of the advocates have gone on to really influence the ways people are involved in clinical trials and the way the media talks about breast cancer, and they have inspired other organizations to take up more metastatic programming.”
Indeed, Lesley Kailani Glenn, a member of the inaugural Hear My Voice class (pictured above), went on to establish ProjectLifeMBC.com, a membership-based virtual wellness house for people living with metastatic breast cancer and their loved ones. “Cathy has been such a champion of the metastatic community,” Glenn says. “She really listens to what the challenges and problems are and makes sure what she puts forth is what the community actually needs rather than what an organization thinks we need.”
“Cathy has a remarkable ability to connect with all kinds of people with all different levels of experience and get the best out of them,” says former LBBC Board Member Robin Bender Stevens. “I met her as I was leaving my job at Merck. I had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, and after a year of treatment, I decided I wanted to start consulting. She hired me to do strategic planning, and since then I’ve done three strategic planning projects for LBBC. I’ll be forever in her debt for giving me the opportunity to try this as a business.
“It’s the ‘still waters run deep’ with her,” adds Bender Stevens. “She’s super intelligent, but she lets other people in the room drive the conversation and subtly makes the best come out of it. She lets other people shine. I think everybody benefits from that.”
In a recent letter, former staff member Josh Fernandez explains what Ormerod’s professional guidance meant to them.
“You instilled in me a profound sense of responsibility to leverage social media for good,” Fernandez writes. “You’ve shown me that marketing and programmatic work isn’t just about numbers and metrics, but about connecting people, driving conversations, and making a difference, whether it’s for people with breast cancer or in the world overall.”
Ormerod is respected throughout pharmaceutical industry circles as well, where she is recognized as a longstanding women’s advocate, notes Elyse Spatz Caplan, former director of programs & partnerships for LBBC and currently a patient advocate for Gilead Sciences. “It benefits patients when experienced stakeholders are at the table. Her compassion and passion are crystal clear,” she explains.
Ormerod has also been recognized for helping to lead LBBC through the COVID-19 pandemic, rebuilding and reimagining new ways to deliver programming.
“She did that through listening and understanding our strengths as an organization,” said Arin Ahlum Hanson, LBBC’s director of outreach. “Through her leadership, we’ve grown a lot and are highly thought of by peers in the cancer community and beyond. She identified strategic partners who are good matches, both smaller community-based nonprofits and others that are large and amplify our reach. Her relationships with funders were instrumental to bringing in resources and getting our advocates to the table with pharma and policy makers, helping bring patients’ lived experience to big players in the cancer field.”
For her part, Ormerod says she is grateful for the opportunity to have served a unique community.
“I’ve met some of the most amazing people, whether they’re people living with breast cancer, people living with breast cancer who have become professional advocates, or the LBBC staff and board members,” Ormerod says. “It’s an amazing field filled with dedicated, passionate people. Breast cancer has the reputation of being the most advanced patient advocate community in the U.S. I think I benefited from joining that community and meeting incredibly creative, scrappy, brilliant people doing good work for all the right reasons.”
Ormerod says she’ll miss building LBBC with Sachs and the rest of the staff, but the time was right for her to spend more time with family and pursue other passions that have remained on the back burner, including writing and traveling.
“I’ve had the privilege of supervising and mentoring a lot of people, and now I feel like I can step back, and they’ve got it,” Ormerod says. “And the advocates have it, too — they’re starting nonprofits and leading research. It’s great to see patient advocacy being taken to new levels.”
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To celebrate Cathy Ormerod's retirement, we invite you to contribute to a memory book. Let Cathy know what she has meant to you, how she has inspired you, and your wishes for this next exciting chapter of her life. Feel free to share a meaningful memory or story, and to share pictures here.
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