Lifelong Philanthropist and 17-year Myeloma Survivor John O’Dwyer Elected to the International Myeloma Foundation’s Board of Directors

John O’Dwyer photograph

International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) welcomes lifelong philanthropist and myeloma survivor John O'Dwyer to the IMF Board of Directors.
International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) welcomes lifelong philanthropist and myeloma survivor John O’Dwyer to the IMF Board of Directors.

STUDIO CITY, Calif. , March 14, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) is thrilled to welcome lifelong philanthropist and 17-year myeloma survivor John O’Dwyer to the IMF Board.

IMF Board of Directors member John O'Dwyer

Prior to his recent election, John served on the IMF Board from 2010-2016 and made many significant contributions to advance the mission and goals of the IMF.

In 2013, John and his wife Dorothy became the founding donors for the Black Swan Research Initiative (BSRI), with the goal of finding a cure for the second most common blood cancer in the world. 

John graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Biology (minor in Chemistry) from Loyola University of Chicago in 1974. He obtained a master’s in management with a focus on Marketing, International Business and Strategic Planning from Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management in 1980. 

John has extensive experience in the pharmaceutical industry—holding multiple positions in sales, marketing, and general management in Celanese Corporation for over 32 years, while living and working around Europe and Asia. He also served as President of Acetyl (a $4-billion business unit that represented 60 percent of corporate sales, and 70 percent of profit) and retired in 2009.  

John’s experience transcends for-profit boundaries and spills into the non-profit sector as well. He has served on the board of United Way Dallas, where he led efforts to redefine strategic direction and added metrics/accountability to agencies seeking financial support.  

Additionally, John has served on the Vanguard Group Steering Committee—a group of volunteers raising $750,000 to $1 million annually to fund cancer research at the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center in Dallas, TX. 

In 2023, John supported over 40 non-profit organizations financially and spent significant time working with the CEO of a Dallas area non-profit, reviewing programming and fundraising as an interested third party.  

He is currently the board president of Bella House— a non-profit that provides maternity homes for homeless pregnant women and their unborn children. Over 170 women and 72 newborns have been provided much-needed support and assistance during John’s tenure as board president. 

John currently resides in Plano, Texas with his wife Dorothy; they have 4 children and 9 grandchildren. 

Diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2007 (a time when few drugs were available to treat the disease), John shares his myeloma journey and remains optimistic, resilient, and hopeful that a cure will be found in the not-so-distant future.

“My first chemo treatments were with thalidomide. Life expectancies were three years or less. Yet, within a few years, multiple new drugs were approved for multiple myeloma. That opened up options for better treatments with fewer side effects. Even 17 years later, myeloma patients have been extraordinarily lucky that new drug discoveries and approvals continued to occur. Multiple myeloma is a treatable but not yet curable cancer. I believe it is critical that you fully involve yourself with your treatment plans and be an active participant along with your doctor.” 

Reflecting on his philanthropic efforts (as the founding donor of the Black Swan Research Initiative and his involvement with other IMF initiatives) as well as his recent reengagement with the IMF and his vision for the organization, John said: “Until you are diagnosed with multiple myeloma, you most likely have never heard of this cancer. That means the general population has no idea what this cancer is. I truly believe it is up to the myeloma community to step up and fight for a cure because no one else will do it for us. As patients, we need to ‘invest’ in finding a cure.” 

Based on his experience as a myeloma survivor and an IMF Board member, John noted that priorities for the IMF and the larger myeloma community should be: “First, educating myeloma patients—that they need to see or at least consult myeloma experts. There is so much new information annually that you need to be sure your doctor is up to date. I’d also like to see more focus on minimizing treatment side effects and focus on quality of life,” he said. 

In this next chapter of being an IMF Board member and in the long-term, John is committed to “working full-time to improve the lives of myeloma patients. I don’t plan on simply being an observer at several board meetings a year. I have always believed in challenging the status quo as the quickest way to find new ways of doing things. My wife Dorothy and I are committed to financially supporting the IMF and working with others to do the same. A cure is possible, but it is not free!” 

“I am thrilled to have John back on the IMF Board. He is a visionary, determined to find a cure for myeloma, and knows and understands what it takes to accomplish big, bold, and life-changing goals. He is what the IMF needs currently to accelerate our mission. I am looking forward to partnering with John and Dorothy in advancing IMF’s goals through philanthropy and robust community engagement,” said IMF Vice President of Development Sylvia Dsouza. 

“We are delighted to welcome John O’Dwyer back to the IMF Board of Directors. John’s longstanding and well-established commitment to philanthropy is deeply inspiring. His decision to align once more with the IMF as a platform for his generosity is commendable. His steadfast dedication to creating a future where succeeding generations can live without the burdens of myeloma is evident in his unwavering support of IMF’s pioneering research initiatives such as MRD, BSRI, and the iStopMM (Iceland Screens, Treats, Or Prevents Multiple Myeloma) Research Project. We are privileged to welcome John back to our board, and we anticipate that his passion, expertise, and guidance will become invaluable assets as we continue our mission to combat myeloma and strive for a cure,” said IMF President & CEO and 28-year myeloma survivor Yelak Biru. 

“John O’Dwyer is a visionary leader and patient advocate. He challenges us to go for initiatives that can make a big difference to patients with myeloma. I am delighted to welcome John to the Board, and I look forward to working with him to expand the reach and impact of the International Myeloma Foundation,” said IMF Chairperson of the Board Dr. S. Vincent Rajkumar.

“I am very excited to welcome board member John O’Dwyer back to the IMF Board. John and his wife Dorothy were key founding donors for the Black Swan Research Initiative, and I look forward to their forthcoming support of groundbreaking research to prevent and cure myeloma,” said IMF Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Brian G.M. Durie. 

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the bone marrow plasma cells — white blood cells that make antibodies. A cancerous or malignant plasma cell is called a myeloma cell. Myeloma is called “multiple” because there are frequently multiple patches or areas in bone where it grows. It can appear as both a tumor and/or an area of bone loss, and it affects the places where bone marrow is active in an adult: the hollow area within the bones of the spine, skull, pelvis, rib cage, and the areas around the shoulders and hips.  
Founded in 1990, the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) is the first and largest global foundation focusing specifically on multiple myeloma. The Foundation’s reach extends to more than 525,000 members in 140 countries worldwide. The IMF is dedicated to improving the quality of life of myeloma patients while working toward prevention and a cure by focusing on four key areas: research, education, support, and advocacy. The IMF has conducted more than 250 educational seminars worldwide, maintains a world-renowned InfoLine, and in 2001, established the International Myeloma Working Group (IMWG), a collaborative research initiative focused on improving myeloma treatment options for patients. In 2012, the IMF launched the Black Swan Research Initiative®, a groundbreaking research project aimed at curing myeloma. The IMF can be reached at (800) 452-CURE (2873). The global website is  

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Media Contacts: 
Peter Anton 
Jason London 

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at

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