Keeping in Touch Winter 2013

by Steven M. Derks on January 7, 2013 - 9:07am

Quest Vol. 20, No. 1

As you read this, I'm just completing my first month as the new President and CEO of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. To borrow a cliché from MDA’s close and dear fire fighter partners, I’ve been “drinking from the fire hose” — in other words, literally inundated with new information.

While I’m new to MDA, I’m not new to leading voluntary health associations, having served as CEO of a division of the American Cancer Society and worked as a leader in the health care and not-for-profit sector for 26 years. Voluntary health associations represent much of what’s best in civil society — powerful partnerships of medical and scientific communities, business and civic leaders, patients, families and staff working together in service of a profoundly important mission. It’s an honor and privilege to join MDA, a recognized voluntary health association leader since its founding in 1950.

The mission of MDA — to find treatments and cures for neuromuscular diseases by funding research, and medical and health care services; advocating for wise public policy; and educating professional and lay communities — is more important than ever. Why? Because — while tremendous progress has been made and this is a hopeful time for us all — there is still much to do, and MDA’s leadership is required to ensure progress doesn’t slow or stall.

I’m struck by the compelling story of progress that is MDA’s to tell. Today, survival rates and quality of life are increasing among people with neuromuscular diseases, and several exciting new drugs are in advanced clinical trials. This would not be true were it not for MDA and the 62 years of passionate commitment shown by our volunteers, donors, researchers, clinicians, staff — and you. Because, if you’re reading this letter, no doubt you’re involved in this lifesaving fight. Thank you. We need your continued support during these difficult economic times.

I have a personal as well as a professional interest in joining forces with MDA. I’ve known since I was in college that I wanted to make a difference for people by helping to lead voluntary health associations. This calling aligns with my values and is informed by many life experiences, including my mother’s 40-year struggle with multiple sclerosis.

So, while I’m learning “at the fire hose” right now, I look forward to working with our Board and staff to set a future course for success. To do so, MDA and I need your help. Please drop me a line at, and let me know your thoughts on how we can be an even better MDA.

Warm regards,
Steven M. Derks
President and CEO

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