CFIDS Association president and CEO
K. Kimberly McCleary
From the Desk of Kim McCleary
Career change becomes calling 17 years ago
February 1 marked my 17th year of service to the CFIDS Association of America and the CFS community. When I meet CFS patients and family members, I’m often asked what drew me to the Association. It was the fall of 1990, and I was pursuing a career change that would allow me the opportunity to do something more meaningful than contribute to corporate profits. I learned from a friend about the Association’s work and its search for someone to run the day-to-day operations. She also told me that CFS was on the cover of Newsweek that week. Reading about the medical mystery CFS presented, and being introduced through that article to people whose lives were completely derailed by this condition definitely piqued my interest.
But it was two meetings with Association founder Marc Iverson that instilled a passion for the cause I hadn’t anticipated. My own encounters with arrogant medical professionals struck a chord of familiarity with the stories I heard from him and others who had been treated dismissively during their search for a diagnosis. My communications training gave me an academic foundation in social policy change that I was eager to put to use in helping the Association change how CFS was viewed by the public, the media, the medical community and scientists. And I wanted to give a voice to the many people too debilitated by CFS to advocate for themselves.
In spite of the many demanding and trying times over the past 17 years, I have never looked back on the job change that forever changed my life – and me. In the earliest days of my tenure, being a “healthy” person caused many within the community to question my credibility as an advocate for the cause. Conflict over research and media strategy, funding priorities, policy initiatives and name change made navigation difficult, but my resolve never wavered. During one such turbulent time, Board member Coco Crum insisted we ignore the roar and “keep our eyes on the prize” – the Association’s mission. Her sage advice still resonates today.
Another question I’m asked is why I stay. In part, it’s because I feel a commitment to finish what was begun in 1987 when this organization was created. But it’s mostly the people I’ve met through this organization whom I’d like to know healthy and restored. The courage and absolute determination I’ve witnessed in people whose lives have been affected by CFS is a constant inspiration in the work I’m honored to do on their behalf. To me, there’s no more important calling in the world.
President & CEO
The CFIDS Association of America
Adapted from a “Historical Perspective” piece included in Defining Moments: 20 Years of Making History, a special publication documenting the history of the CFS movement, now arriving in the mailboxes of current Association members and supporters. To order your copy or additional copies call the Resource Line at 704-365-2343 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, phone number and how many copies you’d like to order. Copies are $15 each or two for $20. You can also couple this issue with the 2005/2006 special publication, The Science and Research of CFS, for just $20 for the pair.