How employees create positive change through volunteering
As the Vice President and Director of Scientific and Public Health for GSK’s Vaccines practice, Dr. Len Friedland has a very rewarding job, but his sense of purpose extends beyond his day job to support people in poor health as well as those with limited access to quality healthcare, as a volunteer. “Helping patients feel better and live longer aren’t just words to me—they’re part of who I am. The way I see it, having great science at the company is fantastic, but it means nothing unless we make sure this science benefits the right people,” said Len.
Helping patients feel better and live longer aren’t just words to me—they’re part of who I am. The way I see it, having great science at the company is fantastic, but it means nothing unless we make sure this science benefits the right people.
Len trained as a physician in pediatrics and emergency medicine and worked in pediatric clinics in Cincinnati, Ohio and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania before joining GSK in 2003. Even then, his passion for patient care led him to pursue work in a local hospital. However, as his responsibilities at GSK grew, so did the demand on his time, making it progressively more difficult to allocate time to work at the hospital. This is how Len came across the NGOs Rotaplast International and Partner for Surgery, which send volunteer doctors abroad to help children and their families affected by cleft lip, cleft palate, burn scarring, and other deformities.
Each year, Len spends two weeks of his personal vacation time volunteering with Rotaplast or Partner for Surgery in locations including India, Bangladesh, Venezuela, and Guatemala. For each trip, he joins a team that performs surgery on up to 15 patients per day. For the last two years he has been working with a team of pediatric reconstructive plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, orthodontists, nurses, and speech pathologists all from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where he did pediatric training. The Philadelphia team includes non-medical volunteers, including Deena, his wife, who oversees medical records and project management.
Len also involves a GSK Vaccines colleague from Guatemala, David Prado, who is a pediatric infectious diseases specialist. “Having my Guatemalan colleague David volunteer to help with patient care is truly special and a reflection of GSK’s value of patient first.” Len uses his training as a pediatrician to take responsibility for the pre- and post-surgical care of each patient. “I can’t begin to explain how good this work makes me feel. I never stop smiling the whole time I’m working in a country, and the appreciation of the children and families is positively life-affirming. I’m conscious that, while I have a hospital or doctor readily available if ever I need one, there are plenty of people who don’t. So, I feel extremely lucky that my skills can help give some of these people the same chance that I’ve had of a life without pain, disfigurement, and stigma,” said Len.
I can’t begin to explain how good this work makes me feel. I never stop smiling the whole time I’m working in a country, and the appreciation of the children and families is positively life-affirming.
Len’s story, featured as one of the Faces of GSK, is just one example of the embedded culture of volunteering within the company. GSK’s employee volunteering annual impact report highlights the success of GSK’s flagship volunteering initiatives, PULSE and Orange Days. This year, the report also outlines the success of our first ever global month of volunteering in October 2017. During this month, 246 Volunteer Ambassadors based in 46 countries helped organize 137 volunteering events, amounting to a total of 80,448 hours of support to local communities, as part of their GSK Orange Day—where every employee gets one paid day off each year to volunteer with their chosen nonprofit.
The report also highlights that volunteering is about so much more than offering support. There is a measurable reciprocation of value from giving one’s time and talent, which is shared through the stories and reflections from the 73 PULSE volunteers deployed in 2017. After returning from their PULSE assignments, both volunteers and their line managers have reported development and growth on skills such as learning agility, cultural competence, teamwork and others. Four out of five PULSE volunteers have reported that they are more motivated to perform in their work at GSK after coming back from their PULSE assignment and 92 percent say that PULSE helped them better understand GSK’s role as a corporate citizen.
Many PULSE volunteers experience unfamiliar challenges and learn how to find quicker solutions with fewer resources. They grow in areas they did not expect and test their ability to be more independent and self-directing. For some, going through such an eye-opening journey sparks new ideas. Alex Van Asch, from GSK Panama and a PULSE volunteer at Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) Uganda, is one of them: “An extraordinary experience at many levels, as a human being and professional. I have come back energized and with a stronger passion in global healthcare, with a real purpose to see how our industry can transform and do more to improve access, impact more patients, and reduce the poverty divide. The opportunity to make a difference is at reach!”
An extraordinary experience at many levels, as a human being and a professional. I have come back energized and with a stronger passion in Global Healthcare, with a real purpose to see how our industry can transform and do more to improve access, impact more patients, and reduce the poverty divide.
GSK has an important purpose: to help people do more, feel better, and live longer. PULSE and other global volunteering programs enable our talented employees to both support society’s most pressing needs and develop and enrich themselves.
To learn more about GSK’s volunteering initiatives and the impact our volunteering community has had across the world, you can read the full Impact Report here.