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Douglas Jackson

In the realm of global healthcare philanthropy, Project C.U.R.E. stands out not just for its scale but also for its profound impact. Since its inception in 1987, the organization has been a lifeline, dispatching an astounding four semi-truck loads of medical supplies and equipment weekly to under-resourced regions worldwide. With aid provided in more than 135 countries, Project C.U.R.E. has become synonymous with hope for countless hospitals and clinics. This remarkable feat has garnered the highest accolades from Guidestar and Charity Navigator, with Forbes recognizing it as one of America's top 20 charities.  Remarkably, since 2000, the organization has donated more than $1 billion in medical supplies across the world.

A Visit to the Heart of C.U.R.E.

As I stepped into the International Headquarters of Project C.U.R.E. in Denver, Colorado, I was immediately enveloped by the magnitude of this organization’s commitment to global healing.  One is immediately struck by the palpable sense of purpose that permeates the atmosphere. A sign at the entrance encapsulates the ethos: “serving lives through medical surplus.”  Dr. Douglas “Doug” Jackson, the dynamic CEO and President, took over the leadership reins from his father, Dr. James “Jim” Jackson in the mid-1990s, and has been instrumental in steering Project C.U.R.E. toward these remarkable achievements.

Project C.U.R.E. has evolved from a modest initiative into an unparalleled titan of global healthcare philanthropy. Today, it boasts seven bustling distribution warehouses across the United States, a testament to its exponential growth. These warehouses, each a trove of invaluable medical resources, are strategically poised to dispatch life-saving aid across the world.  Within each warehouse, over $25 million worth of medical supplies await dispatch to corners of the planet where they can spell the difference between life and death.

The Genesis of a Global Lifeline

Doug vividly recounts the story of his father's visit to a small medical clinic in Brazil, an experience that became the catalyst for the founding of Project C.U.R.E.  This defining moment held profound implications, not only for his father but for the mission of the organization.

Unlike many who embark on similar paths, Jim was not a physician but rather an economist and successful entrepreneur. This distinction shaped his approach to providing aid. Without the luxury of focusing his efforts on a single facility, as a medical professional might, he instead leveraged his skills to develop a magnificent social enterprise addressing health related institutional voids across the world.  He saw the broader picture – the need for medical resources was not confined to one clinic or country but was a global challenge.

This realization led to a core philosophy that would guide Project C.U.R.E.’s mission: to extend help universally. Doug recalls his father's words, emphasizing a commitment to “assist wherever the need is greatest, without bias or preference”.  The realization of this vision has been expansive and far-reaching, enabling the organization to provide ongoing support in countries such as North Korea.  Project C.U.R.E.'s approach is not just about the delivery of medical supplies.  It is about understanding and meeting the unique needs of each community they serve, ensuring that the support is both effective and sustainable.

Doug’s Leadership Journey

Doug’s journey to become the President and CEO of Project C.U.R.E. is marked by a profound personal transformation and an evolving vision for the organization.  With a law degree, a PhD in Business Administration and a storied career in academia, Doug initially viewed his foray into Project C.U.R.E. as a temporary endeavor to support his dad during summer break from university.  However, the challenges and opportunities he encountered rapidly reshaped his trajectory and commitment.

When Doug joined Project C.U.R.E., it was a modest operation, buoyed by 12 volunteers and an annual topline of $100,000.  His expertise in finance and keen sense for scalability began to influence the organization's direction.  He saw each new challenge not just as an obstacle but as an opportunity for growth and impact.  This perspective led to significant and rapid developments within Project C.U.R.E., transforming it from a small entity into a global powerhouse.

Over the years, Doug’s vision for Project C.U.R.E. has continuously evolved.  Initially focused on expanding the organization’s reach, he soon realized that Project C.U.R.E. was more than just a medical supply entity.  The organization was poised to create effective systems for supporters to engage and make a meaningful impact.  This realization led to a shift in focus from warehousing and distribution of medical supplies to the development of educational programs and grassroots initiatives, which were bolstered by a robust network of volunteers, partners and governments.

Regardless of Project C.U.R.E.’s breadth and impact, Doug still describes the organization as a “scrappy 35-year-old startup,” a characterization that resonates with the spirit of entrepreneurship.  This analogy draws parallels with renowned companies like Apple and Microsoft, highlighting a shared ethos of innovation and determination. This perspective is a source of inspiration and identity for the team, reinforcing the organization's dynamic and entrepreneurial nature.

Volunteerism & Mission: The Lifeblood of Project C.U.R.E.

The soul of Project C.U.R.E. resides in its people. A lean team of 35 full-time employees works in concert with an astounding network of 35,000+ volunteers.  These volunteers, contributing over 160,000 hours annually, are the driving force behind the organization's ability to deliver health and hope worldwide.  Project C.U.R.E. has mastered the art of maintaining low operating costs while maximizing the impact of its deliveries and services, ensuring that donations and fundraising dollars are spent on programs rather than overhead.  This collective effort epitomizes the immense power of human solidarity. 

The purpose and passion behind Project C.U.R.E.'s work are the primary drivers of volunteer participation.  Doug emphasizes the importance of legacy and impact in these conversations, underscoring that volunteer motivation is fueled by a desire to contribute to a cause larger than themselves.  The organization regularly seeks feedback from its volunteers to understand what resonates with them.  Time and again, the answer has been “the mission”. 

Storytelling: The Heartbeat of Inspiration

Doug identifies as the Chief Storytelling Officer, a role he cherishes for its ability to inspire and galvanize.  The "secret sauce" of Project C.U.R.E.'s volunteer engagement, as Doug describes it, is storytelling.  He believes that people connect with and remember stories far more than statistics.  The narratives of impact, the lives changed, the communities transformed – these are the elements that captivate and motivate their volunteers.  He speaks of moments like a doctor receiving a crucial medical drill just in time for a critical procedure or the arrival of an incubator that saves newborn lives. 

Central to these stories is the journey of Doug’s dad, Jim, the founder of Project C.U.R.E., whose experiences resemble a modern-day Horatio Alger tale.  An unlikely hero, not a medical professional but an entrepreneur, he saw a need and responded by creating an organization that has since become a global force for good. This narrative not only inspires but also serves as a powerful reminder of the organization's roots and its mission focused on addressing the needs of others.  For volunteers and staff alike, these stories are not just tales to be told; they are a source of inspiration, a reminder of the significant difference each of them makes through their contributions to Project C.U.R.E.

Storytelling is not merely about presenting facts and figures.  For Doug, it's about touching hearts and inspiring action.  Stories are a tool for building a community united by a shared vision and a drive to make a difference in the world.  The organization's ability to kindle passion and purpose among its vast network of volunteers is a testament to its effective engagement strategy and commitment to its mission.

A Coalition of Corporate Compassion

Project C.U.R.E.'s impact is bolstered by collaborations with multinational corporations. A prime illustration is a partnership with Stryker, a renowned medical technology company, that was forged during the pandemic.  Stryker had manufactured specialized beds designed for COVID-19 patients, equipped with essential features like hard frames and ventilatory support.  Each bed also came with a brand new mattress, which is an important consideration in developing countries where many people sleep on a piece of cardboard over rusty bed springs.  Recognizing the critical need for these beds in pandemic-stricken areas, Stryker offered them to Project C.U.R.E. The donation was staggering – 25,000 beds, approximating $75 million in value - a contribution that would have a profound impact on healthcare facilities worldwideThis gesture exemplifies the synergistic power of corporate social responsibility when aligned with humanitarian objectives.

The support from corporations doesn't just supplement Project C.U.R.E.’s efforts - it multiplies their impact, allowing them to deliver critical healthcare infrastructure where it's needed most.  In times of crisis, these partnerships become even more vital, as they facilitate swift and substantial responses to emergent global health needs.

Boeing, known for its aircraft manufacturing, plays a significant role in supporting medical supply distribution.  Doug highlights a fascinating aspect of Boeing's operations: the first flight of their new aircraft, typically on the passenger side, is flown empty. Seizing this opportunity, Boeing often fills a brand new 787 Dreamliner with medical supplies on its maiden voyage, turning what would have been an empty flight into a mission of hope and aid.  Airlink, acting as an intermediary, also coordinates the donation of cargo space on existing flights, enabling Project C.U.R.E. to send medical supplies to destinations worldwide. This approach is particularly beneficial when speed is essential, offering an alternative to slower methods like sea transport.

The United States, a nation often criticized for its medical excess, paradoxically becomes a wellspring of hope through Project C.U.R.E.'s initiatives. Corporations, recognizing the dual benefit of aiding humanitarian efforts and receiving tax incentives, have eagerly aligned with Project C.U.R.E.'s vision.  The generosity of hospitals and manufacturers, in donating their excess supplies and equipment, underscores a profound commitment to global health, enabling Project C.U.R.E. to transform surplus into hope for under-resourced communities worldwide.

Aligning Resources and Need

Project C.U.R.E.'s method for selecting specific countries or areas to serve is a careful process guided by invitation and resource availability. This approach ensures that their efforts are both desired and effective, while also addressing the challenge of prioritizing among global crises and ongoing acute needs.

The process begins with an invitation-based approach.  This approach is crucial as it shifts the dynamic from being presumptive helpers to responsive partners.  Project C.U.R.E. does not impose its presence but rather responds to calls for assistance, ensuring that involvement is both desired and welcomed.

Once an invitation is received, the team engages in a comprehensive needs assessment.  This involves sitting down with local doctors and healthcare professionals to understand their specific requirements and challenges.  Doug emphasizes the importance of the “three C's” in this process: character, capacity, and customs.  “Do we trust the character of our partners?  Can they use what we send?  Can we get the supplies into their country?”  These principles guide Project C.U.R.E. in evaluating potential partners, ensuring trust, assessing the practicality of the aid (like ensuring the availability of electricity for an X-ray machine), and gauging the recipient's ability to utilize the resources effectively.

This needs assessment is not a mere formality but a crucial step in ensuring that the aid provided is appropriate and impactful.  Furthermore, Project C.U.R.E. involves the recipient in the process, asking them to contribute to the cost of the assessment, which covers the airfare and lodging for a Project C.U.R.E. team member to meet live with the recipients.  This contribution is more than a financial transaction; it's an investment by the recipients in the partnership, fostering a sense of commitment and ownership.

This needs assessment process underscores the complexity and thoughtfulness with which Project C.U.R.E. operates.  It's not just about delivering medical supplies - it's about building sustainable healthcare systems in partnership with local communities. This process ensures that every piece of equipment and every medical supply sent out is not just needed but also a step towards a more robust healthcare infrastructure in the recipient community.

Expanding Horizons

Project C.U.R.E., under Dr. Doug Jackson's stewardship, stands as a towering example of how vision, compassion and collective effort can transcend barriers and transform lives.  With over $1 billion in aid dispensed since the millennium, it's a testament to what humanity can achieve when united by a common cause.  Under Doug’s astute leadership, Project C.U.R.E. is poised for unbounded expansion. The goal, to establish a presence in 25 U.S. cities, reflects a vision that transcends geographical boundaries. 

As I concluded my visit, the words emblazoned at the headquarters' entrance resonated deeply: "If you would like to be involved in saving lives around the world, please come in!"  Indeed, Project C.U.R.E. is not just sending medical supplies; it's sending a message of hope, one that reverberates around the globe.


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