Elizabeth M. Wilson, American Brain Tumor Association

TITLE: President and CEO

FUNDING AREAS: Brain tumor research

CONTACT: ewilson@abta.org, 773-577-8759

IP TAKE: A veteran healthcare philanthropy fundraising and PR person, Wilson and her team fund researchers as they seek to unlock the mysteries of brain tumors.

PROFILE: Brain tumors affect hundreds of thousands of Americans, with close to 70,000 new cases expected this year alone. And dealing with brain tumors is complex. Tumors can impact different parts of the brain, be benign or malignant, and their onset is totally random, not predictable by age, gender, or ethnicity. While people with brain tumors require specialized care, many affected Americans don't have access to the treatment or management they need when something as unexpected as a brain tumor occurs.

As its mission, the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) pursues breakthroughs in the diagnosis, treatment, and care of brain tumors. Elizabeth M. Wilson, president and CEO, directs the ABTA as it strives to create a healthier world for people affected by brain tumors in the United States.

Based in Chicago, the ABTA devotes roughly $2 million toward grant programs every year. Most of ABTA's investments go toward brain tumor research. The ABTA gives money to major research organizations to support their work (such as Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory), but the majority of the foundation's grant dollars go toward specific research fellowships at hospitals and universities around the country. The ABTA has several different grant programs depending on who is doing the research and what they're doing, but they range in dollar amount from $3,000 for 10- to 12-week summer laboratory experiences to $100,000 for two-year projects by young researchers entering the field of brain tumor science.

For folks studying brain tumors who also need monetary support, the ABTA's website has a good summary of its various grant programs (including stipend amounts and links to FAQs/applications) here

Wilson comes to the American Brain Tumor Association with a background in marketing and health-focused nonprofits. Previously, she served as executive director for communications and public affairs at the National Safety Council. She was also director of PR for the Alzheimer's Association. In short, if there's an unpleasant health issue that needs advocacy (Alzheimer's, brain tumors, safety), Wilson is well-positioned to advocate on behalf of affected parties and raise lots of money in the process.

With respect to brain tumors in particular, Wilson finds her motivation in knowing that her organization is providing a lifesaving service for people who even a few decades ago had nowhere to turn. Wilson believes that the ABTA filled a gap in American medical treatment by creating a space where brain tumor research could thrive, and that has had a tremendous positive impact on cancer patients and their families. As Wilson explains herself:

The ABTA was founded in 1973—a period referred to by today's brain tumor researchers as "the dark ages." Back then, there was no coordinated funding of brain tumor research, no medical specialty dedicated to brain tumor treatment and care, no national tracking of brain tumor diagnoses, and no reliable resource for patients and families seeking to better understand and cope with a brain tumor diagnosis.

Now 40 years old, the ABTA exists in a different health reality. There have been many advances in cancer research over the past several decades, but as long as people continue to get brain tumors, and as long as the cure for cancer remains elusive, there will continue to be a need for smart folks pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge. Fortunately, Wilson is around to help that happen.