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A member of the University’s Board of Overseers and a graduate of Harvard Medical School (HMS) has been tapped to head the national anti-smoking foundation behind the gritty and provocative “truth” advertising campaign.
Steven A. Schroeder was named chair of the board of directors of the American Legacy Foundation this Wednesday.
Since graduating from HMS in 1964, Schroeder, who works as a professor of Health and Health Care at the University of California, San Francisco, has dedicated most of his professional career to research on tobacco policy and teen smoking and drug use.
He has been a member of the foundation’s board since 2000, most recently serving as vice chair.
“Dr. Schroeder has made many significant contributions to tobacco control over the past decade, and I’m honored to welcome him as our new chair,” foundation President and CEO Cheryl G. Heaton said in a press release. “We consider ourselves fortunate to be in his capable hands as we navigate the challenges that lie ahead for our foundation in the coming years.”
Schroeder recently returned to San Francisco after serving for twelve years as President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest health philanthropy organization. Under his stewardship, the Johnson Foundation rose to prominence as a leading expert on tobacco control and prevention programs for alcohol and illegal drugs.
Schroeder described his passion for tobacco policy as a “mixture of interests” —he approaches the problem as a clinician and public health expert.
“I see the great ravages that smoking causes,” Schroeder said during a break in his first staff meeting as chair of the Legacy foundation.
Schroeder said that with HIV, smoking-related diseases—which kill more than 430,000 Americans annually—are probably “the two most preventable causes of death.”
The American Legacy Foundation is best known for its edgy “truth” advertising campaign, which juxtaposes facts about smoking with often jarring images.
The foundation’s mission is to raise awareness and develop national programs that address the health effects of tobacco use.
Schroeder said he hopes to keep the company “fresh and relevant.” He will focus on the efficacy of the foundation’s advertisements, because, he said, “what works this year might not work next year.”
He also welcomes the challenge of working against “an industry not comfortable with people trying to reduce its profits.”
Schroeder, a member of Harvard’s second-highest governing board since 2000, said he feels expertise as an anti-smoking advocate adds an important perspective to his work with Overseers.
“[I am] very proud that Harvard very quietly divested itself of tobacco stocks many years ago and doesn’t get enough credit for it,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder said he would “stay vigilant of opportunities to reinforce the splendid job that Harvard does trying to improve the quality of health in the United States and elsewhere.”
Schroeder said his line of work is not only important but rewarding.
“In this time of turmoil, it’s wonderful to come to work for a virtuous cause,” he said.
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