Before the Beginning

“Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be.  Each of us is both impossible and inevitable.  Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.”  

An excerpt from “Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren

As I prepare for commencing my PULSE assignment, I have been reflecting on what has led me to this point. The PULSE program is GlaxoSmithKline’s skills-based volunteering initiative which started in 2009, the same year that my son was born.  This program was announced by our former CEO Andrew Witty at a global town hall meeting while I was on parental leave.  My manager at the time called me to let me know of the program, knowing that I would be extremely interested.  However, I could not entertain the thought of applying with a new born.  Over the subsequent years, I eagerly lapped up the wonderful stories from colleagues who had gone on PULSE assignments.  I kept shoving my interest into the “another day” bucket due to family / life commitments.

My job at GSK was interesting, challenging and meaningful. I was leading the Product Development team for a low cost inhaler developed specifically for low / middle income populations of Emerging Markets.  In that position, we had overcome many hurdles and achieved positive clinical outcomes in Pharmacokinetic and Phase 3 efficacy studies for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The main event which has steered my life towards the global healthcare path was a trip to Jakarta in 2012. I participated in a GEMBA (“Go and See”) to identify barriers to accessing affordable treatments for asthma and COPD in low/middle income countries.  During the GEMBA, we visited asthma and COPD patients in their homes (usually 1 room dwellings) and performed interviews.  We also visited doctors and pharmacists to understand how low / middle income patients accessed the healthcare system and their diagnosis / treatment regimens.  My week spent in Jakarta was life-changing.  I experienced the vast dichotomy between extreme wealth and poverty which exists in developing countries.

Fast forward to now…my son is 8 years old and my wife is fully supporting my career ambition to gain experience in the global health / non-profit arena.  So, I applied for the PULSE program this year and was successful (Yippee!!).  I have been matched with Save the Children in Australia (https://www.savethechildren.org.au/).  I am extremely happy to be matched with Save the Children, which is Australia’s largest aid and development agency dedicated to helping children.

I will be based in Melbourne, which is the city where I have spent many years off and on, where I obtained my undergraduate and graduate degrees and where I have many family / friends.  However, I have to admit that everyone who knows about my eternal wanderlust knows that I was hoping for a different city /country and most friends have laughed when I have mentioned the location of my assignment.

The details of my PULSE assignment still need to be fully mapped out but I will be working to improve the healthcare of the indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. I will be starting on July 17th and have a 6 month assignment.

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The PULSE Volunteer Partnership is GlaxoSmithKline’s skills-based volunteering initiative. Through PULSE, motivated employees are matched to a non-profit organization for 3 or 6 months full-time, contributing their skills to solve healthcare challenges at home and abroad.  When PULSE Volunteers return to GSK, they act as catalysts to change the company for the better.

7 comments

  1. I have had a premonition. I think this assignment and experience is going to eventually result in an extraordinarily significant contribution, maybe even a world shaking idea.
    It’s not a guess. Not a wish. It’s a premonition.

  2. Dearest Neighbor,
    I am so happy you are doing this.
    So glad you will be blogging so we can keep up with your work.
    Making the world better……

  3. Thanks, Margaret, for including me in your volunteer initiative in Australia with Save the Children. A dear friend of ours, Tom Murphy, former head of ABC TV became volunteer head of Save the Children after retiring… he was passionate about the good work they did around the world.

    I am excited for you and know this will be a unique opportunity to make a positive contribution in the lives of many. I look forward to reading about your journey, the project and the people.

    See you soon in Maine,
    Elin

  4. Margaret I am happy so for you! This is a great opportunity and this journey is truly reflective of who you are as a person. Reading your story its evident that everything that has happened has lead you right to this point. And I am also certain being assigned to Australia is also a part of a bigger purpose and plan which will be revealed. I can’t wait to hear about your journey particularly with the Aboriginal population. Have fun and be safe.

  5. So very exciting, Margaret! I can’t wait to follow your blogs so I can see what you are up too. July will be here before you know it!! Enjoy the time with your family before you leave for 6 months.

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