Behind the Scenes: Q&A with Kathryn Forbes, American Lung Association National Board Chair
Ms. Forbes shares her personal connection to the Lung Association mission, volunteering and the direction of the organization
Kathryn Forbes, American Lung Association National Board Chair, speaks about the urgent need for federal lung cancer research funding during the LUNG FORCE Advocacy Day reception on March 15, 2016.
Kathryn (Kate) Forbes is an American Lung Association volunteer. She's been a member of the national Board of Directors since 2009, and has served the past two years as our Board Chair. In this position, she provides leadership and support to Lung Association staff working nationwide to drive forward our mission to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. Forbes lives in Arizona, where she is Vice President, Administration for Electric Applications, Inc., a company that provides energy solutions.
- Tell us a little about why you got involved with the American Lung Association? Do you have a personal connection to the mission?
Both my professional life and my private life are impacted by the mission of the American Lung Association. My family moved to Arizona in 1959 because my mother suffered from asthma, and at the time moving to a warmer and drier climate was one way to minimize the impact of asthma. My granddaughter has also been diagnosed with asthma so another generation of my family will benefit from the work of the Lung Association.
Professionally, my business has focused on "clean energy" transportation. The advocacy work the Lung Association has engaged in with clean air is critical to the growth of "clean transportation" in urban settings.
- As the national board chair, what have been your primary responsibilities?
My primary responsibility has been to insure that the national board carries out its responsibilities. I make sure the focus of every meeting reflects the mission of the organization, and that we hear every voice, including key stakeholders, before decisions are made and that the board members are engaged in the board meetings and committee meetings. I also ensure that the Lung Association grows to meet the urgency of our mission by representing the Lung Association with major donors and media.
- What keeps you engaged and excited as a volunteer?
There are so many aspects that keep me excited as a volunteer. First, the opportunity to make a difference in the quality of life of so many. The opportunity to work with so many smart, dedicated and hardworking professionals makes me want to do more and give more. And most importantly, the opportunity to work with a talented executive, National President and CEO Harold Wimmer.
I also get something that I like to call an "emotional paycheck" for my work with the Lung Association. The mission is truly one that I believe in and the hours and energy spent on Lung Association work help everyone breathe easier. While I'm not compensated financially, I feel more than compensated with the satisfaction of knowing I'm part of the solution.
- What have you learned from your experience with the Lung Association?
Like many Americans I thought I knew about the American Lung Association, but in reality I did not. The impact the Lung Association has made over its life is amazing and we need to share our accomplishments loudly and often. We played an instrumental role in the battle against tuberculosis (TB). TB was once the leading cause of death, and now we have treatment options and TB is largely controlled in the United States. We were also instrumental in preventing deaths from SIDS. We fought for and got legislation restricting the use of tobacco and advocated for smokefree public spaces (as well as smokefree airlines). We have increased the visibility of lung cancer in women and the need for more research, fought for early medical screening for lung cancer, and have funded pioneers in lung disease research—and those are just a few examples of our impact as an organization. We all have the responsibility to tell our story—it is an amazing one!
- How would you describe the staff, other volunteers and Lung Association constituents you have worked with over the years?
Quite simply, the best. The positive attitude to make a difference and to improve and save lives is inspiring.
- What do you do when you aren't volunteering?
I try to spend time at our home in Santa Fe, where I enjoy the art community and cuisine.
- What do you want to say to people who might be interested in volunteering with us?
Please join this wonderful organization. Our impact is great and you can help in numerous ways. We need all sorts of talent and know that as a result of your efforts, you will be saving lives in your community.
- What do you want your legacy to be with the American Lung Association?
Members of the national board, the chair's assembly and the executive leadership team had an equal voice during my tenure and felt they made a difference. And working together, we made progress toward the vision of the American Lung Association – a world free of lung disease.
Related Topic: Impact