Meet Michelle Capobianco, CEO of Pancreatic Cancer Canada
She'd doubled PCC’s lifetime investment in pancreatic cancer research across North America.
Michelle Capobianco is the CEO of Pancreatic Cancer Canada (PCC), an organization that’s tackling the world’s toughest cancer with the goal of saving more lives. Since 2016, Michelle has been working to lead and increase the growth of PCC, raising its profile to become a charity of national importance and fundraising capabilities. Since taking over as CEO, Michelle has doubled PCC’s lifetime investment in pancreatic cancer research across North America, and she’s also overseen the creation of a first-of-its-kind network designed for collaboration, connecting top researchers across North America. To learn more about Michelle, keep reading.
My first job ever was… pumping gas at a gas station when I was 14. I put the gas pump in a hole in the side of the truck of my first customer and spilled the gas all over the cement. He just laughed, showed me where the gas nozzle actually was, and gave me a tip!
Before sitting at the helm of Pancreatic Cancer Canada, I was… well versed in patient advocacy from spending a decade each at Easter Seals and the MS Society, but unaware of the cancer world and its many complexities.
I’m passionate about what I do because… this has largely been a forgotten cancer; there has been little change in 40 years, and with a 10% survival rate, people don’t even dream that this is a cancer we could cure. It is exciting in that sense, that we can make a difference; it inspires me.
I entered my field because… I wanted to be a voice for people when they are at their most vulnerable. I felt I could use my willingness to speak up in a way that could make a real difference in people’s lives.
My proudest accomplishment is… the team we have built at PCC. It is made up of many of the women whom I worked with at past charities. I was able to recruit the best of the best, and they were willing to come over and work with me again!
My biggest setback was… when I first took over as CEO at PCC I had to start from scratch, creating business processes and plans that I had assumed were already in existence. This slowed down the speed at which I was able to tackle the big issues.
I overcame it by… well, the old standby: hard work. I worked 9 hour days, 7 days a week, for the first year — even through a breast cancer diagnosis.
My best advice for anyone that cares about a cause and would like to become involved is… rather than approaching the organization with a list of the things you want to do, ask them what they really need and then see if you are able to help meet those needs.
The one piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… maintain a work-life balance!
If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed, it would be… my firm belief (and I even have it as a tattoo on my arm) that there is “Always A Way.”
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… My love for animals is my greatest passion, and most of my free time is spent volunteering with rescue organizations.
I stay inspired by… hearing from patients and families that having access to our support and services made a material difference for them during their cancer experience. With this disease, the vast majority do not survive, but our goal is to help them with whatever their path might be.
The future excites me because… I believe that, similarly to the breast cancer movement, we can galvanize a select group of people who, through fundraising and awareness, can change the trajectory of this disease.
My next step is… overseeing the merger between our U.S. and Canadian entities into Pancreatic Cancer North America.