Resourcing the Patient and Caregivers Prostate Cancer Journey and The Prostate Cancer Foundation - Kneeland Youngblood

January 9, 2022

Kneeland Youngblood a board member of Prostate Cancer Foundation joins Charles Ryan, the CEO of the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF), providing his perspective on the expansive role of the foundation for prostate cancer patients and their loved ones and caregivers. 


Kneeland Youngblood is a Founding Partner of Pharos Capital Group. Mr. Youngblood is Chairman and CEO of the Firm and responsible for overall firm strategy. Mr. Youngblood is a member of the investment committees of Pharos' funds and currently serves on the boards of Egenera, Reel FX, and TotalTrax

Mr. Youngblood was chairman of the American Beacon Funds, a $30 billion mutual fund company, managed by American Beacon Advisors, a $65 billion investment affiliate of American Airlines. He was a director of Starwood Hotels and Lodging, one of the largest hotel companies in the world with more than 725 properties in 80 countries and 120,000 employees. He also served on the board of directors of Gap Inc., Burger King, and the $3 Billion Dallas Employee Retirement System. He was a former director of the U.S. Enrichment Corporation, a global energy services company taken public in 1998 in a $1.4 billion initial public offering in the largest U.S. government privatization since Conrail. He served as a Presidential appointee with Senate confirmation in his role on the Board. He currently serves on the board of Scientific Games Corporation, TPG PACE Holdings, and Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, a UK-based company, listed on the New York Stock Exchange.  Mr. Youngblood is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and graduated from Princeton University in 1978 with an A.B. in Politics/Science in Human Affairs and earned an M.D. degree from the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School in 1982. Mr. Youngblood is based out of the firm’s Dallas office.

Charles J. Ryan, MD, the President and Chief Executive Officer of The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF), the world’s leading philanthropic organization dedicated to funding life-saving prostate cancer research. Charles J. Ryan is an internationally recognized genitourinary (GU) oncologist with expertise in the biology and treatment of advanced prostate cancer. Dr. Ryan joined the PCF from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, where he served as Director of the Hematology, Oncology, and Transplantation Division in the Department of Medicine. He also served as Associate Director for Clinical Research in the Masonic Cancer Center and held the B.J. Kennedy Chair in Clinical Medical Oncology.

Read the Full Video Transcript

Charles Ryan: Hello from the Milken Global Conference 2021. We are in Los Angeles where I am joined today by Dr. Kneeland Youngblood, who is the founding partner of Pharos Capital, and very important for our conversation today, a member of the board of directors of the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Kneeland, it's been really great getting to know you in my couple of months only, as the new CEO of the Prostate Cancer Foundation. I look forward to working together with you. Tell us how you got started with PCF.

Kneeland Youngblood: I got started with PCF... Really was my introduction to Mike Milken. Mike had come to our conference that I was attending and we just connected. And he understood my background as a clinician. He understood my interest in prostate cancer, both personally but also professionally, and its impact on the African American community, and asked me, would I join? And I was honored to be asked and certainly found it extraordinarily rewarding.

Charles Ryan: Yeah. It's very rewarding to see a board that is addressing a whole host of issues around prostate cancer patients. And the African American community is something we could probably dive a little bit deeper on this topic if you want to.  I think that what we are hoping to do in the foundation is to develop avenues through which we can address disparities in care delivery diagnostics but also differences in the biology of the disease that can be identified in different populations across the country and even different populations within a metropolitan area.

So from your perspective, sitting on the board and thinking about the PCF and its mission, give us some perspective on these big picture items, because one could say the Prostate Cancer Foundation should focus on disease biology. Others could say, we should really focus on getting the best care for the patient as possible. And there is a tension there because both of those are important. What's your perspective?

Kneeland Youngblood: My perspective is I think that while we can not necessarily be all things to everyone, I think we should be the repository of the best information in all respects relating to prostate cancer, meaning from the different diagnostic approaches to the best treatment approaches, to the best quality of life outcomes. And again, give people the information they need in the most effective way that explains it in a way that communicates these things well.

And in helping people to understand that and the dialogue with their physician, there is not one single approach, best approach, but it's what is the best approach for you and your family. And so I think that we should be not only again the best resource for the patient but for the patient's family and loved ones. And so I see that we should have a more expansive view of what the organization can be, should be with regard to clinicians. While research is fundamentally important, and we've been clearly the world leader in that regard, I think there is a more fundamental approach that we can take in terms of addressing the needs of patients.

Charles Ryan: I've found myself using a couple of words more frequently since I took this position literally two months ago. One word is expansive. I just find myself using that word a lot. I've also been using this word that I'm actually not even sure if it's a real word, it's called upcycle. And I keep thinking about how if we do, for example, to your point. If we do a better job of educating the public about prostate cancer and we become the place where newly diagnosed patients come for information, for navigation, and for guidance on what they should do for themselves, or how they should help their loved one if they are not the patient themselves.  We have an educational mission, we have a navigation mission, and we will be able to tap into that to fund the research, I think, a little bit better. And it all hinges on, can we get the word out? Can we communicate?

And if you're firing on all cylinders and you're doing all these things, the mission just goes up, up, up and it expands, and that's expansiveness. And so what we are doing at the PCF, I think, is trying to achieve all of that. I think that one of the concerns is, whatever the analogy is, biting off more than you can chew or going too fast, too soon. So I'm the new CEO, I've been with the organization for a couple of months, I've got a lot of, I think, ideas and ambition, but I need the mentorship and guidance from the board. And that's what we are sitting here talking about today. So I'm going to have you, on camera, give me advice as to the new CEO.

Kneeland Youngblood: I think what I would do is really take the approach of, if you were a patient newly diagnosed, and especially given your insight as a clinician, what would you want within an organization to be able to address your clinical needs, your emotional needs, this holistic approach to this frightening new world you are about to enter? And so to me it know? I think we need to help men and their families to understand the reality that they are in, acknowledge the fears that they have, help them to ask the right questions of their clinicians, help them to be as informed as possible about the choices because not everyone is in an academic medical center. And quite frankly, not all academic medical centers are the same. And within academic medical centers, not all clinicians are the same.

And so giving people a guide to the best or the options as it relates to particular clinical pathways to address this issue, but also the emotional pathways to address these issues and inform both the patient as well as his family, the journey that they are about to enter in a way that allows them to have some degree of confidence recognizing the fears that they have, and confidence in the process and that they are best prepared to be able to address it. And again, that the outcome, while not assured, is one that can be, and they should have a positive outlook about it.

Charles Ryan: Yeah. That's beautiful. And it is very ambitious and it's also just practical and makes a lot of sense. As I'm sitting here listening, I'm thinking, "Yes, that is a great mission, but I'm one person and we are an organization with approximately 40 employees, and there are 200,000 men this year in the United States who are going to be diagnosed with prostate cancer." So it's just kind of hard to think about how we're going to scale that. And that's why I come back to the issue of the way you scale it is through education, not only of the patients but of the clinicians. And I think that this is a real challenge we have in our country and perhaps even globally, which is, as you point out, you could be at an academic center and you could talk to two different people at a very prestigious academic center, both of them specialize in prostate cancer, and you're going to get different opinions. Right?

And so that is a real challenge, also we can create educational content, we can bring people in to help think about the PCF way or just to know the data on particular scientific aspects of this journey that they are about to be on. But really, it's about identifying and almost training or educating acolytes who can speak on behalf of the PCF.  And that is something also I'm thinking about, how we're going to do that because it is a special group of people with a deep knowledge of this disease, I'm talking about the people who work under the PCF umbrella in one way or another through the funding of their research, or just through their clinical experience, et cetera.

So a big challenge is ahead for us as we embark on this together. And I do have to say, I have so far, and I don't think it will change, found the board to be like this amazing group of mentors, advisors, and counselors who I already go to for advice on topics on an almost continuous or daily basis. And you have a unique perspective of being on the board because you are a physician and have that background. So tell us a little bit about how that might figure into your interactions, not only with the board, but with me and patients, et cetera.

Kneeland Youngblood: Well, I know enough to be dangerous in that I once upon a time practiced medicine, but certainly am not an active clinician at this time. I actually invest in healthcare. And so I look at it from different angles, certainly understanding the pathophysiology of the disease, understanding the respective options, but also the delivery of healthcare, and the barriers to getting care, the cost of getting care, any number of different things. And so I'm hopeful that I can provide a degree of insight that...

We've got brilliant clinician-scientists on the board, that is not me. But hopefully, I can provide a more grounded or complementary understanding of other challenges we face in addressing the needs of our patients and their families in a way that allows us to be able to deliver to folks the information they need at the time they need, in a way they can absorb it, and also have confidence that they are making the decision, the right decision for them and their families in the right way.

Charles Ryan: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, final question. If you had a pet project that you wanted to move to the top of the priority list for the Prostate Cancer Foundation, what would it be?

Kneeland Youngblood: A pet project for the Prostate Cancer Foundation, what would it be? I think that it would be creating a vehicle, be it through a series of videos or talking points that spoke to patients directly in a way to say, "I've just been diagnosed with prostate cancer. This is what's going through my head. These are the questions I need to ask. This is why I need to ask them." Understand that it's okay to be afraid. Understand that as a male you have certain vulnerabilities in terms of expressing yourself.

But the loved ones around you need to be communicated to in a way that helps you. And so, do not close yourself off. And that this is a journey that you can make together and you can have a successful outcome. And also make sure that you are as informed as possible, that you understand going in, what are the costs and the benefits to the respective treatments, and how do you address any issues that may come as a consequence?

Charles Ryan: I think that's a great project. It's not an easy one, but I didn't come here to do an easy job. So I look forward to working with you and thank you for your guidance to me and thank you for your guidance to the listeners and viewers today in this video. Kneeland Youngblood, a pleasure to talk to you.

Kneeland Youngblood: My pleasure. Thank you. Bye-bye.
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