September 29, 2016
Kevin Tephabock, the senior director of primary care systems for the American Cancer Society (ACS), says he shares the one story of when his understanding of cancer totally changed with his staff.
“I’ve had quite a few mentors, but I think a situation that really impacted me career-wise, and really as far as ACS certainly, was an experience I had on my very first day of work with ACS,” Tephabock recalled. “We have a program called Look Good Feel Better, which is for women that have gone through the temporary side effects of chemotherapy. A volunteer came into my office that first day of work and asked if I was going to attend the Look Good Feel Better session that night. Being completely new to the American Cancer Society, I had no idea what Look Good Feel Better even was.”
He said there were eight to 10 women at the session and, looking around the room, there were sad faces. They were just really depressed and trying to figure out their lives with chemo and what was going on. The instructor asked for a volunteer to be the model for this session, and the model puts on a new wig and makeup. Tephabock said he kept looking around the room, and there was a woman in her late 20s whom he thought was there with her mother. The instructor asked twice for a volunteer and no one would volunteer, and finally the young woman he thought was there with her mom took the wig and said, “I’ll do it.”
Tephabock, a 1983 marketing graduate of the College of Business and Economics, said this was a defining moment in his career.
“Here was somebody who was so young facing cancer. In my mind, cancer was an old disease,” he said. “That’s one thing I could identify and still feel to this day. It was real, and the impact of that one thing left kind of the footprint of work ethic long term.”
Tephabock has enjoyed a 20-year career with ACS, beginning as a community specialist for the Mid Atlantic Division. He has continued to move up the ranks, with a recent promotion from senior manager to senior director. He manages a seven-state region, as well as the D.C. area.
“My job and really the work we are doing is with federally qualified healthcare centers, and those are centers that really are the catch-all for healthcare. Those are the centers that have sliding scales or provide free services sometimes to patients, those that cannot pay. Many of those individuals are people that have never had a cancer screening or never had screenings period, never had healthcare, never had insurance. Our job is really to work with those federally qualified health centers to increase screening rates. We look at ways to improve their systems,” Tephabock said.
When Tephabock transitioned from owning his own business to working in the nonprofit industry, he knew he was making the right move. He knew his true “heart and soul belongs to working in communities, working with people, changing lives and making a difference.” He still feels that fire in his work today.
“To me when it really comes down to the final thing, it’s making a difference in someone’s life. It’s that person that had never been screened for cancer in their life. They’re screened and a clear screening came back. It’s that sense of pride in that they know in their heart they’re okay,” he said. “I think certainly the work that the American Cancer Society has done as an organization statewide to me is great. We’ve had significant impact on smoke-free laws across West Virginia and continue to fight that battle with big tobacco. We’ve had significant changes in laws that have been passed because of the work we’ve done.”
As an alum of B&E, Tephabock says he uses his marketing degree each day. He says the biggest asset he brings to the table with ACS is his affinity for partnerships.
“It’s all about making connections, building relationships and understanding the value of relationships and how that takes you to the next level and how that can support your efforts, but also their efforts. Making it a win-win for whomever you’re working with,” Tephabock said. “To me, that’s the heart and soul of marketing. You’ve got a product or a service that you want to promote, but you also want to find partners that want to work with you on different levels.”