The six co-founders of Nevus Outreach and their children: L-R Doug and Molly Powers, Kevin and Tina Williams, Mark Beckwith and Kathy Stewart
Mark Beckwith announced today he will be retiring from his position as Chief Executive of Nevus Outreach on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the organization he co-founded with five other parents of children with congenital melanocytic nevi (CMN).
Telling nevus.org, “All good things come to an end. This is the right thing at the right time,” Beckwith smiled wryly. “I’ll be 59 this month. The organization will be turning 20 years old. When I took this post, I thought I might help out for five years or so, but it turned into something bigger than even I was imagining.”
Co-founding the organization in 1997, Leading the Board of Directors in 2000, then accepting their invitation to become Executive Director in 2003, it has been on Beckwith’s watch that the organization hosted ten international conferences for patients who are affected by CMN, and sponsored two international expert meetings. Patients have benefitted from over 100 scientific papers published in the past 20 years that give credit to Nevus Outreach for their work bringing patients together.
“If you’d have told me 20 years ago we would accomplish all this together, I would not have been quick to think we would. What Nevus Outreach has accomplished has been exceptional,” says Beckwith, looking back.
Taylor and Mark with Oklahoma Senator Inhofe
Taylor in front of the capitol in Washington
As an intermediate step to scale back his daily office participation, in January Beckwith increased his focus on the next Expert Meeting when members of the Naevus Global Scientific Advisory Council recommended the time has finally come for the world’s CMN experts to collaborate on a consensus statement about how to care for patients who have this rare disease. “It’s what we knew we wanted in 1997 when our daughter Megan was born. It’s precisely why we created Nevus Outreach,” Beckwith recollects. “I mean, there are a lot of reasons we created Nevus Outreach and this one was my personal passion. I thought, ‘why can’t the people who have the most experience tell all of us what they do and why?’ It made perfect sense.”
However, the quest for this kind of standard of care met a very long and uphill battle for all the years that passed, until now. Beckwith credits long-term vision as victorious, “even when everyone for so many years said this would never happen.” So it’s a fitting swan song. “If this is my last official act, getting this task accomplished, I will feel like I have played my role in this true story about a life-threatening disease.”
Nevus Outreach “Second in Command,” (Beckwith’s words) and Beckwith’s right-hand, Taylor Scott, has stepped into the day-to-day operation shoes so Beckwith can focus on his highest-priority task. Taylor Scott has performed leadership at Nevus Outreach conferences since 2012, and has already begun ensuring the success of the 20th Anniversary 2018 event. He has joined Beckwith attending innumerable annual meetings of professional medical societies, NIH Councils, patient advocacy consortia, and annual trips to Capitol Hill addressing Congress on healthcare matters. He serves on the boards of the Coalition of Skin Diseases, and the International Alliance of Dermatology Patient Organizations.
“Everyone always wondered what would happen to Nevus Outreach if Mark got hit by a bus. Well, this is a great opportunity to find out, without having to actually hit Mark with a bus,” Scott mused. “We’re super lucky that we are so comfortable and trust each other on the staff in our office. It’s a safe and nutritive environment that allows us to take a chance occasionally, and dream big, which is how all this heavy lifting gets done.”
What will happen next for Nevus Outreach?
Robert Brown and Mike Loehr on their recent visit to the office in Oklahoma
The Board of Directors of Nevus Outreach is performing a comprehensive search for a new Executive Director, which includes a window of opportunity for anyone who is already a part of Nevus Outreach or the greater nevus family to express their interest in applying. Robert Brown, chair of the Board’s succession committee, and leading the search for the new head of staff, puts it like this: “it seems possible, even likely, that the best person for the job would be someone within the big nevus family.” Not everyone “gets it” about rare diseases, and someone who has walked that mile could be a huge benefit to the future of the organization.
What's next for Mark?
Mark as Counsel for the Plaintiff in Trial By Jury circa 1988
Mark Beckwith muses about his future, “When Megan was born, Kathy (Stewart) and I were opera singers. Perhaps we got a little side-tracked for the good of people affected by giant nevi. Perhaps now it’s time to brush up on all those roles for older distinguished-looking guys.”
“Or character roles,” he says with a glint in his eye.