by Susan Josephs
When Andrea Wolf speaks to women about breast cancer, she shares her own story about testing positive for the BRCA1 mutation at age 22 and having prophylactic mastectomies at age 30. “A lot of good can come from being public about one’s story,” she observes. “If I can help change one person’s life by sharing my story, then speaking openly is well worth it.”
Devoted to spreading the message that “virtually no one should die from breast cancer,” Wolf has found her calling at the Brem Foundation, a nonprofit committed to breast cancer prevention through early detection. The foundation is named after her mother, Dr. Rachel Brem, a breast cancer survivor and a pioneer in the field of breast imaging. Since becoming president and CEO of the foundation last year, Wolf has worked tirelessly to improve the foundation’s digital presence and to ensure the success of its programs, which include breast health education initiatives, a fund that assists women who cannot afford diagnostic tests, and a physician-training fellowship that incorporates community service.
“I took this job because it matches the way I view the world,” observes the 33-year-old Washington D.C.-based advocate. “We help women become their own best advocates so they can take control of this disease.”
With a talent for multi-tasking and a love of “planning and strategizing,” Wolf spends her days forging partnerships with corporations and nonprofits, fundraising, and speaking at events, often with her mother, a 2002 Woman to Watch. Starting her day at five in the morning to go running, she credits her success “to being very high energy, having a passion for being alive and working very hard when I believe in what I’m doing. And the rewards of this work are huge, to hear the stories of women whose lives are changed,” she says.
"I took this job because it matches the way I view the world. we help women become their own best advocates so they can take control of this disease."
Wolf grew up sitting with her mother “in the X-ray room” and accompanying her father, a neurosurgeon, on his rounds. “I saw how much my parents loved what they did and how deeply they impacted others’ lives. They made me believe I could do anything,” she recalls.
Raised in Baltimore and the grandchild of Holocaust survivors, Wolf embraced observant Judaism in elementary school and, by eighth grade, would walk seven miles with her father to attend Shabbat services. “Judaism guides everything that I do,” she says of maintaining an observant home with her supportive husband Ariel Wolf and being an active member of Ohev Sholom, the National Synagogue.
Wolf majored in political science at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was inspired to go into public service by Professor John DiIulio. After graduating from Penn she received her law degree from George Washington University. She then spent three years at the law firm Patton Boggs LLP, focusing on litigation and public policy, before joining the nonprofit Girls Inc. There she served as director of public policy and discovered her love for advocacy.
“I learned how to connect with other advocates at the White House and on Capitol Hill about issues that matter for girls,” she says, crediting Girls Inc. CEO and President Judy Vredenburgh for mentoring her and showing her “how to run a successful nonprofit.”
But her proudest role is being the mother of Eliana, 8, Lirone, 5, and Neshama Leah, 2, “They inspire me every day to see the beauty and potential in the world. They know how much I love what I do,” she says. “And I like that they see that I’m not only committed to them but to something much bigger than all of us.”