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SAAF selects new president

Oct 09, 2015 Share


Cynthia Nelson Brings Wealth of Healthcare Management and Fundraising Experience to Leadership Role

SAN ANTONIO - The San Antonio AIDS Foundation (SAAF) announces the appointment of Cynthia Nelson as the organization’s new president.

Nelson, who will officially take the reins of the 29-year-old agency on Tuesday, October 13, brings more than 30 years of healthcare management, fundraising and financial experience to her new role as leader of San Antonio’s oldest and largest HIV/AIDS service organization.

“We are thrilled to welcome Cynthia to SAAF and we know she is going to be instrumental in guiding the organization as it continues to grow and serve the needs of the San Antonio community,” said Anne Marie Simmons, chair of the SAAF board of directors.  A special committee of board members and community leaders conducted a national search to replace former Executive Director David Ewell, who left the organization in April.

SAAF Interim President Jack Downey, who will step down next week after Nelson officially takes over as president, believes Nelson is an excellent choice to lead the city’s largest HIV/AIDS service organization.  “I applaud the SAAF board’s decision.  Cynthia not only has excellent credentials - her expertise in the HIV/AIDS field dates to the earliest years of the pandemic - she is passionate about leading a mission-focused, nonprofit organization like ours that both improves the lives of people living with this terrible disease and works to prevent HIV and AIDS in our community,” Downey said.

Nelson’s career spans more than 30 years in varied management, administration and fundraising roles within the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.  These include extensive work related to the specialized field of HIV/AIDS research, treatment and care.

Her past leadership roles within the college include seven years as chief of operations at the Center of Innovation in Quality, Effectiveness and Safety - operated jointly in Houston by the Baylor College of Medicine and Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, which is the largest health services research center in the Southwest with an operating budget of more than $12 million.  During that time she worked closely with a nationally recognized team responsible for research and treatment focused on HIV testing, adherence to retroviral therapy and retention in HIV care.

Also at Baylor College of Medicine, she served 10 years as director of research services at Texas Children’s Cancer Center in the Department of Pediatrics, working with grants totaling more than $21 million; four years as administrator of the Department of Family Medicine; and five years with the Huffington Center on Aging and the Department of Medicine Geriatrics.

In addition, she worked as a consultant for the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston where her expertise in grants management helped to establish the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy.

Most recently, she spent one year as executive director of Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Inc. in Kendalia, Texas, before making the decision to return to the nonprofit healthcare field, which is her true passion.

“SAAF has done so much for the San Antonio community and has positively impacted so many lives.  I am proud and honored to be selected as the new president of such an outstanding organization,” Nelson said.  “My entire career has been in mission-focused settings and I am dedicated to honest, clear communication and aggressive fundraising in the fight against HIV and AIDS.  I am ready to hit the ground running by building on SAAF’s rich legacy of good works, continuing the many excellent strides made by its leadership in recent months, working with SAAF’s passionate and hardworking staff, meeting and getting to know our patients, funders and volunteers, and laying the groundwork for what I know will be a bright future for SAAF and the people it serves.”

Cynthia Nelson