Inspiring People

Marydale DeBor
Innovative Crusader

Marydale DeBor
Marydale DeBor is a professional creative thinker and problem solver, who develops innovative solutions to significant problems.

With over 15 years of experience directing large scale, multimillion dollar philanthropic initiatives, Marydale was one of the key engineers of Avon's programs to fight breast cancer, globally.

She is currently the Vice President for External Affairs and Foundation Executive Director at New Milford Hospital, New Milford, Connecticut.

Prior to that, Marydale served as the Chief Advisor to the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade where she was instrumental in creating and implementing a comprehensive, international philanthropic investment strategy to support a corporate breast cancer initiative, with a mandate to accelerate the development of effective prevention and treatment strategies and to increase access to medical care for underserved women.

While working with Avon, Marydale established a national network of more than 150 prominent investigators, leading National Cancer Institute (NCI) -designed cancer centers, successfully positioning Avon as a leader in funding, promising yet under funded areas of breast cancer research.

Marydale was instrumental in the development of an historic public/private partnership between The National Cancer Institute and Avon. She spearheaded the Avon-American Association for Cancer Research Global Breast Cancer Initiative to support continuing education and training at US cancer centers for young investigators and survivor-advocates in Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe.

Marydale has worked closely with prominent, New York city-based non-profit organizations a network of 135 community-based programs that bring publicly funded sources of breast cancer care to thousands of uninsured, low-income, minority and elderly women in all 50 states.

Among her many other accomplishments, Marydale has served as:
  • Executive Vice President for the Academic Medicine DEVELOPMENT CORP, NEW YORK, NY,
Her record of public service and pro bono activities include:
  • Member, Institutional Review Board, New York Psychiatric Institute, New York, NY
  • Member, Public Policy Committee, Cancer Care, Inc., New York, NY
  • Healthy People 2000 Cancer Control, Progress Review Advisory Group, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC
  • Member, National Mammography Quality Assurance Advisory Committee, Food & Drug Administration
  • Member, Guideline Panel on Quality Determinants of Mammography, Agency for Health Care Policy & Research (HHS)
She is a member of:
  • Bar Association of the City of New York
  • New York State Bar Association
  • District of Columbia Bar Association
  • American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethic,
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology
  • American Association for Cancer Research
She received her J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh Law School, Pittsburgh, PA where she served as the Notes and Comments Editor for The Journal of Law and Commerce

She attended Chatham College, Pittsburgh, PA where she earned her B.A. with Honors in Education.

Marydale is a mother and new grandmother.

She currently resides in Connecticut.


That is the single word that I would use to describe Marydale DeBor and the work that she has done to change the lives of women all over the world.

Avon Corporation's Breast Cancer Crusade is responsible for improving the lives of women by improving their access to breast health education and care, and by supporting research to find cures for breast cancer.

Avon is the second largest non-governmental funder of breast cancer research and care programs because -

Marydale DeBor had a good idea.

Though far too modest and gracious to "toot her own horn", I have no problem doing it for her or for The Avon Foundation for that matter.

Marydale had an idea and when she shared it with others, what resulted was extraordinary. Women, who might have otherwise been overlooked in the war against breast cancer, now have reason to hope because now they have information, programs and partnerships that are making a difference.

"Avon programs have endeavored to increase awareness and screening for ALL people, reduce disparities in screening, provide support to the medically underserved, and support research to eliminate breast cancer by developing novel preventative and interventional approaches.

The Avon Crusade programs have been successful in reaching underserved, minority, lower income and uninsured populations."

Because one woman had a vision and determined to see it through, because one corporation had a heart and was committed to profound contribution, many lives will be saved.

Thank you Avon.

Thanks Marydale.

DR: Tell me about your life and your work.

MD: I'd like to start with the present.

I have found a place of peace. I am living a lifestyle in the country that is very simple and I am very involved with my family. I am following the work that I love, which is really working in health care…

I think I was always fated to be someone who would be able to touch the lives of others in my work and at age 55, I have finally arrived at a new place where I can do that. It has given me the ability to look back and realize that I was always doing that but I was always trying to improve it each step of the way.

I started out as a third grade school teacher in an inner-city school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I came from a family that was very caring about its community. I come from a tradition of paying attention to your surroundings.

Then I decided that I really had to get some skills because I was interested in advocacy so I went to law school when my first child was three and then I had another child while I was in law school - in Pittsburgh.

At the end of that, lo and behold, I got recruited by a big national law firm, which really impressed me because I was coming from a regional law school. So I went to Washington, D.C. and in that role I found myself always doing too much pro bono work and getting criticized for it, or signing up to join a women's service group…I thought "There's a theme here!"


The thread is that I was always looking for work that I could be passionate about and finding a new way to do it along the way using my skills as an attorney, but carving a new path for myself because I needed to. I needed to be able to wake up everyday and say:

"I really want to go do this and it really might matter that I did, to at least a couple people in the world",

which could sound kind of goofy and kind of trite, but I was just doing it by instinct, not by calculation.

Sitting where I am now with one child married and my first grandchild, looking back, I look at that theme and I feel so gratified that after having had several evolutions in my work life I am now stating a whole new career at age 55, running a community hospital!

How great is that?!

New Milford Hospital is a regional healthcare provider that is a member of the world-renowned NewYork-Presbyterian Healthcare System. New Milford has an extraordinary tradition of warm and caring personal attention backed by top-notch physicians, world-class technology and the newest, most advanced diagnostic and treatment options available. Your healthcare team of highly trained physicians, nurses, technicians and administrators is determined and committed to improving the health and quality of life of those we serve.

Click here to learn more about New Milford Hospital and opportunities to give and support their work.

DR: What is your most favorite part of your life right now?

MD: The fact that I have work that I do everyday that resonates with my family and friends and resonates with how I have raised my children…I have something that I can fill twelve hours a day doing, but when I call my kids on the phone they will say "Tell me about that Mom!" and "What did you do?". We have a basis for conversation, my friends and I, and my children, that has to do with who we want to be and how we want to live.

My life is not divided. Each part of my life can talk to the other. I think that is the best…

And my garden,


and my dog.


DR: They say that, in life you will always have problems. Personally I figure why not get some big problems then; some worthwhile problems…

Tell me about a big problem that you have…

MD: Currently?

DR: Yeah, and how you are going about solving it.

MD: Right now I am in a situation in my work, in healthcare, that is typical of me.

I am a big risk taker. I will go into things that look like they are insurmountable; I figure maybe it is my training as a lawyer. I know how to break things down into small pieces…I decided to take a job in healthcare at an acute care hospital at a time when it is all crumbling and bring to it what -- at a small country hospital -- what I have learned from a very big world that I have been in internationally. I have done international work in many different areas while I was practicing law…


How do I bring all of that to a tiny little place and make what I know work there so that we survive and thrive at a time when healthcare is just so challenged in this country?


How do I do that when I am working with a whole different cast of characters whom I have never known, who are really defined by having been in this place for a long time while I have been in many different places?

I am really learning how to work with a whole new group of people and perfect my inter-personal skills so that I have good partnerships with them.

I was always a loner. I was always a consultant that would come in from the outside. And, even as an attorney, you are really a loner too…you have to develop your own business…So now I am part of an organization. Well how good is that for me to have to learn how to function in a different organism?! It works totally differently. There are different hierarchies that I need to respect and I need to learn how to work with that. I am finding that to be a really great challenge. It keeps me on my toes.

DR: You make it all "look" easy - taking on big issues and having great successes. What is it that you tell yourself for encouragement when you come up against obstacles?

MD: I call on people whom I admire. I try to think "What was it like for them?" Some of that is magical thinking because I mean I don't really know how someone like Eleanor Roosevelt felt. She obviously had a lot more power than most of us but I try to look…

There is someone who I work with right now who I admire tremendously. She runs all of the nursing functions. She has been there a long time and I see where she started and how far she has come. She is really a role model and so I pay attention. I try and seek that person out and talk to them about "How did they process? How did they build it?"

I try to be reflective.

I also do a lot of reading about people's journeys and their own experiences of themselves. Autobiographies I find really fascinating because it is an inner glimpse. Right now I am reading the autobiography, which was written twelve years ago, of Philip Roth. What a brilliant writer! He is just an enormous talent and I think "My God! This person is so gifted with this magic pen". We all know that maybe he had a complex life and psyche but to be able to learn about what his experience of himself was is fascinating. It is both humbling and empowering.

The one thing that I haven't learned to do is keep a journal. Maybe I will move on to that for solace.

The other thing is my garden. I go there to sort of "Zen out".

DR: If you could wake up with a new ability tomorrow, what would you want that new ability to be?

MD: To be mathematical.

I can intellectualize that math is a language and I happen to be very facile with language. I speak French and some Spanish. That is very easy for me. I keep telling myself that math is just another language and yet my mind just doesn't work that way. I can quantify but I can't use numbers to do it. I have to use words. I guess that math would be a powerful tool for me.


It's not gonna happen so what I do is hire a person to be my math person or my stats person…


DR: Would you change anything about your life if you could?

MD: Um…


My parents were both very, very sick. They died when they were very young. I would rather have not had that pain. I took care of my siblings…

Maybe it made me a better person, but it was very hard.

DR: Tell me something that you learned having gone through that?

MD: Let me answer that in two ways:

I first learned, without knowing it, that I am a real survivor.

There were enormous obstacles to overcome. I had to parent my mother's other children and care for them when they were sick. I learned that I was a survivor.

In the last ten years of my life, I learned that I had so much more to learn about being that, and what it didn't allow me to be. I was so busy surviving. Now I am spending time getting to know myself in a whole new way, my vulnerabilities, my wants. I always thought that I wanted just to survive and that if I reached certain benchmarks that meant that I was a success. Now I am doing things that I just want to do, not that I have to do to keep my head above water. I know I am O.K. so,

"Let's leave that over to the side and let's see what do we want to be?" That is part of the reason that I live in the country. Its part of why I am dedicated to reading. My garden means a lot to me and I got a little dog and I started riding horses again...So I am paying attention to that part of my life.

In response to the needs of women and their families, the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade has for more than a decade raised funds and awareness for advancing access to care and finding a cure for breast cancer. In the US, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women, and it can strike men as well.

There is a new diagnosis every 3 minutes and a life lost every 14. From 1992 through 2005 the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade raised and donated more than $400 million in 50 countries worldwide for medical research, access to treatment, screening, support services and education. Our commitment to the cause is unwavering.

Please visit the Avon Foundation Newsroom for updates on our latest activites.

"In 2005 the Avon Foundation reached a half a century committed to improving the lives of women. From the initial scholarship of $400 in 1955, in 40 years we have exceeded $450 million raised and awarded for women's empowerment and health, and we continue to work towards our goal to be the largest foundation for women.

The Avon Foundation has developed a special connection with women and their communities. We want to continue to make a genuine and lasting difference in the lives of women everywhere, with a special focus on the issues of breast cancer and domestic violence. Our goals are high and our commitment is unwavering as we enter our second half century."

--Carol Kurzig, Executive Director, Avon Foundation

Click here to donate to the Avon Foundation.

Maybe one day I will even write about myself and keep a journal. That would be a real show of strength. If I could be that personal with myself to put my thoughts on paper, I think that I will have really grown.

DR: If you could imagine being at the end of your life and looking back at "all of it", what would have needed to have happened for you to consider that you lived a life of no regrets?

MD: For my children to have many, many conversations about me.

In my faith, in the Jewish faith, we have a very strong emphasis on "remembering them" -

"And we shall remember them"--

is in many of our prayers.

If I could close my eyes and look forward, I would see my kids sitting around, telling stories about things that I taught them that have contributed to the way that they live, what they card about or important moments, and that they would express that in terms of a gift that I gave them.

That's all! That's a lot…

DR: What would you say has been your biggest contribution to the world so far?

MD: You know, I am very clear about that.

In addition to my children who are really just extraordinary, I think. (We all know that our children are extraordinary because they are ours and they should be and we should all feel like that otherwise we are not getting all that we should be out of parenting….)

But --

I really think that it is the work that I did for Avon. This is going to sound, not so humble, but I gave eleven years of my life helping them build a system of philanthropy that helped, I think, a few hundred thousand women that may not have otherwise gotten healthcare. It has had this ripple effect because of the way that we built the architecture and it is now institutionalized which is something that is really incredible!

This was an idea - an idea. It was me with a brown paper bag going in and saying "Gee, you are interested in breast cancer? Why don't you do think about doing this?", and then working with all of these different parties.

Now, stepping back at it and looking at all of the hundreds of people that are involved and running programs…

We got the Federal Government involved - the CVC and the national Cancer Institute! It is living! It has its own life! And, theses were people that nobody noticed! How bad is that? Nobody notices you? Nobody notices your need? We shouldn't live in a society like that. And yet, we do live in a society like that.


if I made a dent in that, then I am a happy girl; a very happy girl.

What a cool thing that I have gotten to do that in my life. I am so lucky.

DR: A hundred years from now what do you remembered for.

MD: That I gave a damn. That's all. If they could just put that on my tombstone -

"She gave a damn"--

that would do it for me.

Thanks Marydale!

Make a Difference : Get Involved

The Avon Walk for Breast Cancer is a remarkable, interactive weekend Walk that raises critical dollars to provide access to care and finding a cure for breast cancer. The Walk provides the opportunity for all participants to make a tangible commitment toward eradicating breast cancer while also increasing critical awareness of this deadly disease.

Good things come to those who WALK!

Click here to learn more.
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