An Interview with Dr. Douglas Jackson with the Denver Medical Study Group
Introduction to Project C.U.R.E. President’s and C.E.O., Dr. Douglas Jackson
From a small medical clinic outside Rio De Janeiro in 1987, a mission was born that would launch what would become the largest distribution center of donated medical relieve for over 135 countries today. While traveling in South America, Dr. James Jackson and his wife came upon a small clinic. They witnessed communities without access to basic healthcare, doctors, and nurses without essential medical resources, and people were needlessly dying without hope. After returning to Colorado, they began to collect and donate medical supplies and made their first shipment to the people who desperately needed it.
From the first shipment to Brazil in 1987, the foundation of Project C.U.R.E. was established. Over the next 35 years, now under the leadership of Dr. Douglas Jackson, the Denver-based organization operates international headquarters with seven distribution warehouses located throughout the U.S. The organization has provided over 2,000 cargo containers of life-saving medical supplies to 135 countries. With a small staff and over 30,000 volunteers logging over 160,000 hours annually, Project C.U.R.E. delivers health and hope to the world. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Douglas Jackson.
“It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. It was an age of wisdom, and it was an age of foolishness. It was an epic of belief and an epic of incredulity. A season of light, a season of darkness. It was the spring of hope in the winter of despair.” Most of you know that was the opening paragraph to Dicken’s Tale of Two Cities that he wrote about the French Revolution. He might as well have written it for us now. Albert Bourla, the president of Pfizer, talked about a coming variance of the COVID virus that at some point would become immune, that it would not respond to the vaccines. Any time we have a disease of any kind, whether malaria, M.R.S.A., resistance to pharmaceuticals, that’s a bad day. That wasn’t what surprised me. What surprised me from what Dr. Bourla said was that if it happens, it probably will; it will take us 90 days to develop a new vaccine. It was the best of times.
To put that in perspective, it was about the same time that Dickens was writing A Tale of Two Cities that we discovered a disease called polio. It took from the late 1800s until the 1930s to develop the first vaccine, and it failed. It took another 25 years to come up with a vaccine that worked. And here’s Pfizer saying that if this happens, we can develop a new vaccine in 90 days. The best of times, the worst of times.
I love this picture because it shows us a bit of where Project C.U.R.E. works. Do you remember those magazines and in the back of the magazine it had a picture like … It would have a drawing of a schoolroom and half the letters across the top were backward, and the teacher had one fishing wader on and one shoe, and it would say, “What’s wrong with this picture?” Remember that? What’s wrong with that picture? Stick up your hand and tell me what you think is wrong with that picture? That’s a delivery room in Africa. I took that picture. That lady was just about to have a baby. What’s wrong with the picture?
The window’s open.
The windows are open. You cannot maintain sterility when the windows are open. What else?
A bit dirty.
It’s pretty dirty. Look down along the edge of that wall and that floor.
There’s not a clean sheet on the bed. There are no sheets at all, is there? You don’t use a wooden stool. You can’t sterilize a wooden stool, and you would not put a wooden stool in an operating theater or a delivery suite in the United States. I wouldn’t do it. There’s no water. When that baby is born, where are you going to put that baby? They’re going to put that baby in that little blue plastic bassinet because there’s no other place. There’s no oxygen for that baby. There’s no oxygen for the mom. All of the instruments to deliver that baby are on that rusty metal table, and they just used them a few minutes before. That’s the world where Project C.U.R.E. works. I want to show you a graph that came from Dana; she works in private equity, particularly in the medical space.
Do you know what this is? This is the amount of money spent on private equity in the healthcare sector. How many of the doctors in the doctor’s offices are being sold in multiples? Our entire country’s healthcare system is for sale right now. That’s some pretty huge margins. We’re talking hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. And this is healthcare that we’re living in around the world. That versus the picture that I showed you just before. It is the tale of two operating rooms. I don’t know any better way to depict the difference than this slide right here. The picture on the lower right-hand side was taken at a hospital in the United States.
That’s the emergency room—the picture on the upper left-hand side I took on the tiny island nation of Vanuatu. You’ll probably remember Vanuatu, there was a guy there named James Michener stationed during World War II, and he wrote a book called The Tales of the South Pacific. That’s where Pappy Boyington was. If you watch T.V. now, Vanuatu is where Mark Burnett filmed the first Survivor, and the term “Vote you off the island” was the island of Vanuatu. This photo is of the emergency room at the hospital in Vanuatu. It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times.
My dad started Project C.U.R.E., he dad moved to Denver when I was about two years old, and he got involved in some real estate here just west of the town. You might’ve heard of a couple of little towns called Vail and Winter Park. My dad did most of the development of the residential areas of Winter Park across the clear back to Devil’s Thumb Ranch. So he did a lot of that. He was working on that West Vale Valley where the City Market is, buying some property. He was buying West Vale valley at $125 an acre.
His goal when he was a little kid was to be rich. My granddad, his dad, was a preacher, and this was back before televangelism and preachers were poor. My dad decided that he wanted to be rich, and the definition of rich was “I want to be a millionaire. I want to be a millionaire by the time I’m 30 years old.” The problem was we lived in Idaho. I don’t think there were a million dollars in the entire state of Idaho at that time, so he moved to Colorado. He got involved in real estate, and he failed. He missed his goal by one year. And then he did it again, and again, and again. Our go-to church car was a Mercedes 600. It was the big long one with the backseat that reclined, where you had curtains. It was pretty fine. He used to take me to school in a Bentley. The steering was on the wrong side of the car, so all my buddies, we’d drive up in the big circle drive in front of the school, they all thought I was driving the car, but I was sitting on the left side. He was driving on the right side.
But something exciting happened one day on the way to the bank. My dad looked at my mom, and he said, “Honey, are you happy?” My dad’s business partner was his brother, my uncle. My uncle had a habit of going through wives, kind of like you go through water on a hot day. My dad’s question to my mom was pretty sincere, “Honey, are you happy?” She said, “No, not so much.” He said, “When do you think you were happiest?” She said, “When we were kids back on the ranch in Idaho. We were saving up nickels and quarters to go to Winger’s Hamburgers on a Friday night.” He said, “I think you’re right. That’s when I was happiest too.” One Saturday morning, they sat my brother and me down at this little birch kitchen table, and that’s where my mom made pancakes and waffles and bacon and eggs. They said, “Boys, we started something called a foundation, and what that means is we’ve given away your inheritance,” which doesn’t matter when you’re in high school, but when you get to college, and you realize that with the inheritance went the school tuition. That’s a problem. But that’s precisely what they did. My dad was left with time on his hands, and he thought, “You know what? I can give money away. I can also give away what’s between my ears.” Your assets, our balance sheet doesn’t stop with what’s on deposit at the bank. We are blessed with so many things that line up on the asset side of our balance sheet. We’re here tonight; we’re healthy. We’ve got relationships.
My dad knew how he decided to give away, so he ended up in Brazil working with President Sarney in the early to mid-1980s when they had about 3,500% inflation. Every month your rent would double. It was coming soon to a Central Bank near you. He was down there working with President Sarney, and it was his tiny interpreter, Lorenna, a medical student, and Lorenna’s mom was a doctor. They used to go into these [inaudible 00:12:29], and they would help these people. About 300,000 people lived in this community outside Mesquite, Rio De Janeiro. They would go to this little house, and the entire house would fit inside this room. That’s where they went to get healthcare.
Lorenna and her mom asked my dad to go one day, and he agreed. Sometimes the best things in our lives that happen when we yes. So my dad said yes, and they went and took him to that little house. In the front room of the house was an old exam table, and there was a glass front box of rerolled bandages. They had just started the pediatrics ward in the front bedroom, and they had an old rusty baby scale and some old Disney posters, and that was it. The dental unit you ran on the back porch, and the drill was a treadle pump drill like you’d seen on an old sewing machine. 1987.
My dad looked at that guy, and he said, “I don’t understand it. I do understand you can’t practice medicine this way.” The guy said, “You’re the economist. We have no money.” So he committed that guy to bring stuff down there to help him. And then he came home to Denver, and he thought, “What am I going to do? I just promised this guy that I would send him stuff, and I don’t know where I’m going to get more than a Band-Aid.” So we had a friend here in Denver, a guy named Greg Lowe, and Greg listened to the story, and he said, “That’s easy. Pete and I own a wholesale medical company. We’ll give you stuff.” This picture is a picture of my dad in 1987 unloading the very first boxes into his garage in Evergreen, Colorado.
Greg and Pete got on the phone, and they started calling everybody else in the business, and in about 30 days, they had filled my mom and dad’s garage, both sides of that garage, full of medical supplies. My parents paid to ship that down there to Brazil. 1987. Honestly, he thought that was probably the end of his good deed. But then Lorenna’s school called and said, “Could you do something here at the university, at the medical school?” One of her professors called and said, “We want to start a pediatric hospital for little kids with cancer in Brazil. There’s no such place in Brazil right now,” so my dad helped her get that started.
And then Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras, and then the Soviet Union came apart, and next thing you know, he was busy. That’s when called me. My background, I’m an attorney. I hope that I can still sit and have dinner with you. We started doing mergers and acquisitions with the company I was working with at that time. There’s a big ag manufacturing company outside of Chicago, and I thought that was the coolest thing. I was 23 when I passed the bar, and I thought, “This is going to be a really neat life flying around in private aircraft and Mercedes and a house on the lake.” But the guys sitting across the table from me were making more than I was. These were the money guys from New York. They had come in to help us finance these deals, and I decided to do that. So I came back here to Boulder, and I got a Ph.D. in finance, and I thought, “That’s where I’m heading. I want to make a dollar more than I spend.”
My dad challenged me. He said, “Son, that’s a gift, you’ve earned two doctorates, and your not even 29 years old, and you have zero student debt. Give it back. On the front end, not the back end.” I taught college for a while, thinking that living on the beach in San Diego and teaching finance is charity work. That is not philanthropy, friends. That’s just fun. But I got sick of academics, and I told my dad, “I’m done; I want to go back and do something New York, Chicago in the options exchange. Something like that.” And he said, “I could use some help with Project C.U.R.E.” I said, “Great, I can help you for six months.” That was 1997.
This is what Project C.U.R.E.’s warehouses look like now. That’s 50,000 square feet, rack three high. So, what started in his garage has grown a little bit. Part of that is due to a lady here tonight, Stephanie Foot. When she was Deputy Mayor, she leased us one of the airline hangars outside of Stapleton Airport for the [inaudible 00:17:21] of one dollar. Honestly, I don’t think we would’ve grown like we have, had she not done that. So that was a big day for us.
We now have seven of these warehouses. There’s one in Denver, one in Nashville, one in Phoenix, one in Houston, one in Chicago, one in Philadelphia. Just because we didn’t have anything to do last year with COVID, we started another one in Kansas City. The goal was to get 25 of these across the United States. What that does, every one of these will produce, when we’re at total capacity, just about a semi-truck trailer every week. We’re anticipating shipping about 225 semi-truck trailers full of medical supplies this year.
What’s inside of there is about half a million dollars’ worth of stuff. It costs us around 25 grand to get it over there, so every time we raise a dollar, we deliver about $20 worth of medical relief. We get over there, and we give it away. We always start with a needs assessment, where we’re checking out and making sure that we understand the people’s character and trust them. Their capacity. If we get it over here, can you use it? And customs. Can we get it into the country? When those three things line up, and we get the fourth one, which is cash, we move. Two hundred twenty-five times this year is what we’re going to do. Kind of a cool opportunity.
But here’s what we’re really in the business of; volunteers. 2019 we had 39,500 people across the United States who volunteered with us. That is amazing. Some of those people will come in 30, 40 hours a week. They’re retired, maybe, or they have the luxury of spending their life doing volunteer work. I’ve got volunteers who have worked with me for 22 years. We’ll get big groups, and we’ll get small groups, we get the rotary. Denver Rotary comes out; Centennial Rotary Club comes out. Highlands Ranch Rotary Club comes out. We get high school kids looking to do their school. We got to think of some other word than community service. Wait. Isn’t that what you do when you get caught tagging buildings?
But they’ll come out, and they’ll do their community service with us. We got corporations that come out. We got everybody, and they’re all welcome because that is what this is all about. Can you provide an opportunity for people to get involved in their world and change their world? In most of the places where we work, the people will work for 12 hours, and they get paid between a dollar and five bucks for a day. When you are that poor, you just can’t afford healthcare. But these people have decided to change that story. These people have decided to intervene in pictures like this. Because it’s 2021, it is not okay to have images like this.
Here’s what happens. When these little moms are pregnant, and we go and tell them, “You need to go see the doctor,” they’ll look at you, and they will ask you the most intelligent question I have ever heard. “Why would I go to the hospital to see the doctor? Everybody else in my family who has gone to that hospital has died. My mom died there, two of my sisters, three of my aunts, my cousins.” So what they decide to try to have the baby at home. Home could be a long way away. Home could be a place without any flooring, just on the dirt, with a midwife who may or may not be trained. So that little mom will get into 24, 30 hours of labor.
Finally, when the midwife gives up, the baby is stuck, and Mommy’s not doing good; they’ll put it in the back of a pickup truck, maybe. There’s no ambulance, usually no taxi. They might take her the two hours to the hospital to a birthing ward that looks something like this, and with any luck at all, will make it in time. But, unfortunately, what happens is, is too often, we don’t. And then we repeat that cycle over and over and over again. That is the work of Project C.U.R.E., and that is what we do every day – go into a place like this and try to change the course of history. We know what the outcome of this is. If you intervene, it’s not that we’re going to try to move the needle. We’re going to bend the needle off in the opposite direction. And that’s what we did. That’s what we’ve been doing since 1987. That was our work until March 2020, and then we knew what happened.
Dana and I were at an international women’s event in Nashville, Tennessee, the day that President Trump closed the airports. I had people in Kenya, a team in Ivory Coast, and a team in Suriname. We looked at each other and said, “This is flat, the curve, it is going to be 14 days. Anybody can do 14 days. So we’ll just go home, buy tuna fish and toilet paper like the rest of America. Let’s get all of the teams back into the barn, and we’ll wait out this storm for the next two weeks.”
Saturday, my brother called. My brother is a fire chief with West Metro, and he said, “Doug, can we come down to the warehouse and get some P.P.E., some gloves and gowns, and masks?” I said, “Yeah. Why do you need P.P.E.?” He said, “Because we’re out.” I said, “You can’t be out. You’re the fire department. You’re supposed to be prepared at all times.” He said, “We’re gowning up just like everybody’s got it. It’s just not working. We’ve run out.”
We put together a pallet for West Metro and stuck it by the door, and then the phone rang again, and it was one of our nurse volunteers. She works at Littleton Hospital. She said, “Doug, we’re gowning up in trash bags.” Then we got a call from Denver Health, and then we got a call from Centennial Hospital in Nashville. Then we got a call from Westchester, Pennsylvania, and all of these hospitals are running out of stuff. So we just went through the warehouse. It took precisely an eight-second bull ride to decide that we were going to call a board meeting, by the way, if you’re a non-profit. I called Kris, who’s our operations guy, and I said, “Kris, we got to respond.” In that long, we just decided we were going to pivot.
We went back to those big warehouses, and we started pulling off all the stuff we could find. Pallets and pallets and pallets. We started responding by sending the stuff back to hospitals. Sometimes the hospitals had just donated it a few weeks before. So we just sent it back. We got a request for ventilators, so we started putting ventilators in over there.
We found a group called Angels Flight, and what they do is they’ve got donated aircraft, and they would put stuff in the back of these airplanes and fly it out to Holyoke and rural parts of Kansas and Tennessee and places like that because the rural hospitals got hit hard. So when we ran out of stuff, we started doing drives. It began with Mike Kopp at Colorado Concern. We were on a telephone call with then-Senator Cory Gardner. Mike hung up, and he called me, and he said, “Hey Doug, you know what? The legislature isn’t working right now.” I almost said, “Do they ever,” but I didn’t; he said, “We could do a drive with these guys,” and I said, “Great. Let’s use that circle drive behind the Capital right there.” I got too big, too fast, and so they called our friends over at the Denver Broncos and said, “Can we use the Sports Authority Field at Mile High?” He said, “Sure. Come on out.” We went out there. It was a cold, late March morning, a Sunday morning, and we told the whole community we would start at noon. I looked at Dana, and I said, “It’s 11:30. What if nobody shows up? We’ve got the T.V. cameras out here. We’ve got a bunch of boxes. Big wooden crates and things.” At about a quarter to 11:00, people started driving in; they owned body shops, they worked at construction sites, nail salons, etc. The woman that runs the teaching labs down at Metropolitan State University showed up with an entire S.U.V. full of gloves, and she said, “I’m not teaching lab right now so you guys might as well have these too.”
We filled up six or seven big trucks full of stuff. We thought, “That went pretty well,” so we tried it again with the Titans in Tennessee and went to the Bulls and the Blackhawks in Chicago. We did it again. Cindy McCain was on my board. I called her up and said, “Do you know anybody at the Phoenix Cardinals?” She said, “I can make that call.”
Over the next probably nine to 10 months, we put about 15 semi-truck trailers. We put a lot of little masks in a semi-truck trailer back into the healthcare system here at home. Again, responding to calls from nurses and doctors and front line workers that were saying, “We’ve got no other option. You got to help us.”
Coming out of COVID, we started working around the world, and it’s more important right now than ever, and I want to show you why.
This graph is the poverty line, worldwide poverty. The solid line is what we know has already happened. The thick dashed line is what we thought was going to happen. The tiny dots were where we thought global poverty would go before COVID, and then COVID happened. So you can see what we think will happen to global poverty. We’re reversing years and years and decades of a war against poverty.
Here’s the tricky thing. I was in a conversation with Thomas Friedman not too long after 9/11. He said something to me that stuck. He said, “9/11 stands for the proposition that if you don’t visit the bad neighborhood, the bad neighborhood visits you.” We’re seeing that Omicron right now, aren’t we? The Delta variant. And these folks have no resources to fight it, and that is not getting better. So it’s something we’re going to have to think about.
When we were talking before this talk about getting prepared, one of the things that George suggested said, “It would be great, Doug, if you had some things for us to chat over dinner about, so let’s have a couple of things that we can talk about.” Here’s the truth of it. These moms still have babies even in the middle of COVID. Dad still falls off his motorcycle in those crazy turn styles of Nigeria and Vietnam and all the. Even in the middle of COVID. Little kids still get sick. They break their arms; they break legs; they just do crazy stuff even in the middle of COVID.
We have this challenge to address a pandemic, but we also have to address regular old health stuff. Herein are a few questions for us. Here’s an easy one. Why is it that we are so addicted to consumable stuff? I read a statistic the other day that just because of COVID, we have increased the amount of plastic in our landfills, and sadly, in the ocean, by somewhere between eight to 10 million tons. Does everything we’ve produced have to be thrown away? This was the problem with all of the P.P.E.; instead of nurses masking up five or six times in a day, they would mask up 60 to 70 times in a day – we’re not prepared for this use, and we do not have the quantity. Maybe this is something we should start talking about for many different reasons.
Here’s another one. Why is it that the most important things are on the other side of the world? You remember when we started this, there was this embargo with China. Let’s just set that aside. Is the best place for our stuff half a world away when you need it? I asked that question eight months ago. With 150 ships off the coast of Los Angeles, let me ask that question again. Is the best place for the stuff we need half a world away?
Here’s another one for us to consider over dinner. What will we do when our entire world is united at the hip? I went through Ebola and hoof and mouth and H1N1, and many of these other things in global pandemics; it never hit as COVID did. Part of it was because there were places around the world where you still couldn’t get with an airplane. What is the conversation we need to have worldwide about the things that impact all of us, and how do we have that conversation? We tried to have that conversation a few weeks ago at Glasgow that didn’t go so well. What about public health? Let’s bring that one a little closer to home.
We’re wrestling with this idea that your behavior impacts my public health, so I get to have something to say about your behavior. Let’s call it masks. Let’s call it vaccines. We have now opened a dialogue about your behavior impacting my public health, my pocketbook. We also know that most of the chronic disease in America is caused by, and I’m saying, most, not all. Two factors. Weight and smoking.
We were just with one of the cancer researchers the other day, and I asked them that question. He said, “I’m telling you, 35 to 40% of all cancers can be avoided if you just don’t smoke a cigarette.” Here’s the question. If we can suggest that you have to wear a mask or get a vaccine, can I suggest that you have to lose weight? At what point do employers get the right to say you can’t smoke, and if you test positive for tobacco, you lose your job? I’m not coming down on one side or the other. I’m just saying we just opened Pandora’s Box, and we get to have that conversation now. Interesting. That’s what makes for fun dinners.
Let me give you a little bit of hope, though. Can you make a difference? Can you change this stuff? If you get involved and intervene, can you do something about this? I’m here to tell you today that the answer is yes. We got started on Saving Mothers, Giving Life, a Project C.U.R.E. program, a few years ago. Five of us sat around a table, including a woman named Claudia Conlin from the U.S.A.I.D., Burt Peterson with the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, ACOG, Christie Turlington from Every Mother Counts…We said, “Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could intervene in some of those toughest places in the world to be a mom? If we could reduce maternal mortality by 50%?” Everybody on the outside of that room said, “Nope, can’t do it. Nope. That’s too much.” We want to reduce maternal mortality in half and cut it in five years. So we picked the four worst places in Zambia and the four worst places in Uganda to be a mom, and we got busy.
Burt and his team at ACOG wrote a curriculum. They wrote this curriculum so that you didn’t even have to know how to read English. It looked like a tic tac toe board. We taught these little nurses that if you lose a mom in this upper left-hand quadrant, it’s because you’re doing this wrong. If we lose the baby at the lower right-hand quadrant, it’s because you’re doing this wrong. And you could go into those situations, and she says, “Look, it’ll last 90 days. We got an empty tic tac toe board. We’re doing it right.” So Christie started raising money through C.D.s and stuff she was selling at Tom’s, and that went to provide taxi fare. I say taxi; it’s not like Uber. A Taxi looks a lot like a little Chinese Boda Boda motorcycle. If you’ve ever seen a nine-month pregnant woman who’s in labor, holding on to a guy who’s racing across town in a boda boda motorcycle, it is unbelievable. But they’ll do it.
We gave her four vouchers, two for a prenatal checkup, one to come in and have the baby, and a healthy baby check at the end. Those moms started showing up. Project C.U.R.E. put in all the stuff. We put in everything from delivery tables to beds to scrubs so that when that mom and that dad walk into that hospital, there was something to look at, that doctor didn’t have to leave to practice medicine someplace else; there were tools for them to do their job in that hospital. Merck and U.S.A.I.D. put a bunch of money, data and collection, went out and found these people, and called them smags. There were a lot of sometimes retired midwives, even. We’d dress them up in these bright neon green shirts and these cool long skirts, and we gave them a black bicycle. We said, “Ride out into the communities and find these girls that are going to have a baby. Take the message that this is a safe place to have a baby.” And they did it.
In five years, we reduced maternal mortality in those districts in Zambia by 48%. We did it in; we began at about 52%. It worked so well we took to cross Rivers State, Nigeria. We did it again. Can you intervene? Yep. Can you bend the needle off in the opposite direction? Yep. Can we address some of the questions I just asked and make a difference? The answer is yes. You can make a difference.
I want to leave you with a quick story about a guy born in that region of sometimes Germany, sometimes France. All the time delicious wine. It was Germany, and he was born and became a Lutheran minister. He would study and read and read that God loved poor people in the Scriptures. So Albert Schweitzer quit his job as a Lutheran minister, and he went back and became a doctor. He decided to take medicine to the people who needed it the most.
Albert Schweitzer went to a place known as Gabon, and he started a little hospital down on the river; he was probably the best Bach organist since Bach. He would come back to Europe, and he would come to the United States, and he would play Bach organ concertos. At the end of the concerto, Albert would pass his hat around; he would take the money, get back on the boat, and go back to Gabon, and he would do a little bit more work on his hospital. Finally, his wife got so sick from a tropical disease that she couldn’t go; he would kiss her goodbye and head back to Africa.
During the war, he was captured and put in prison. After the war, he went right back to Africa and started working again. When he died, he said, “I don’t want to be buried in that beautiful part of Europe. I want to be buried down by the river next to my hospital,” and that’s where you find Albert Schweitzer. That’s the reason he got a Nobel prize. Here’s what he said. He said, “I don’t know your destiny, but the one thing I do know is that the only ones among you who will ever be happy are those who seek and find ways to serve other people.” If there’s any message I have for you tonight, it is that one. We all want to be happy. We want to have our kids, friends, and everybody else happy.
My dad and mom figured that out. They’re not happy with a Bentley that has the wrong steering wheel. They’re not happy doing a lot of the other stuff. The only ones among you who will ever be truly happy are those who seek and find ways to serve other people. Thank you for having us here tonight. I have to say, after a year, you look marvelous. It’s great to see you. Thank you.
Questions and Answers:
We can do some questions and answer. I know that I am the only thing standing between you and another glass of wine and some dinner. Yes, sir.
You’re certainly operating at a scale now, so I’m just curious how much formation there is between your effort and the Red Cross or other efforts at that scale.
That’s great. We’re at scale – what’s the coordination between other prominent organizations and us? One of the exciting things about Project C.U.R.E. is that I’m not a medical doctor; my dad’s not a medical doctor. So we had to learn to rely on other people. If you look through our core values on our website, one of the core values is a partnership. I told my dad one time, “I never want to own a white Toyota truck on the continent of Africa.” There’s a lot of aid agencies that do that, and they do it, really, really well. What our job is to find those people and help them.
Everything we’re doing right now is coordinating with somebody at some level. Sometimes it’s the government. Sometimes it’s another N.G.O. Sometimes; it could be a big corporation. We work with corporate social responsibility partners in groups like Newmont Mining. They show up, put a gold mine in Ghana, West Africa. Everybody’s sick, and the healthcare system is broken, and so we can go in and do some of that kind of thing too. But this has been one of our central core tenets, and the value of what we have is let’s do this together. Great question. Other questions?
How has the shipping containers been affected?
Usually, it would take us about three or four days to order a container and have that big container brought to the warehouse. We’re two to three months out now, and we’re trying to move some Stryker beds – Stryker gave us 22,500 beds. Get your mind around that one, right? We moved beds from Missouri to Kansas City; that’s a two-and-a-half-hour drive. We had at least that many truckers who just decided not to show up in six days.
We had a guy standing out on the dock waiting to load the trucks. They just didn’t show. They didn’t call. It is like the world’s worst lousy date. And they just didn’t show up. So we’re having a real hard time with it because all the containers are sitting somewhere in the Pacific Ocean full of stuff that needs to be unloaded before we can get them. So it is a problem that’s getting worse. There is an Eighty-eight thousand truck driver shortage in the United States. I don’t know how you train that many people in 90 days to move stuff. Even if you get it off of the dock, now what are you going to do with it? We have an issue.
How does your organization navigate the average landscapes of South America?
Let’s just paint that brush around the world. It’s tough. We had done a lot of work in Mexico until this current administration, and they made it kind of tricky. I think we sort of figured out who our friends are, and we’re going to start shipping down there. We’ve done a lot of work in Cuba, which is kind of fun. I’m proud of that because we have circumvented many political issues to get the people’s health. But friendly places, like Kenya. Here’s an exciting story. In Kenya, if you were in the Congress or the Senate over there, the Parliament, you could import cars and not have to pay importation tax, so all the politicians became used car dealers. So this president decided that he would crackdown on corruption, which included paying a tariff on everything, including our stuff. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait, why are you giving it away, and you want to tax us?
We had to go to the embassy, and we did some work, and they said, “Except for charity work.” That was fine, but when we started working in India just a few months ago, we shipped a bunch of those brand new COVID relief beds over to India, and I got a tax bill, and we ran it up as far as they could, and they said, “The only thing we will not tax is oxygen. Everything else is going to be taxed.” Why would you do that? I still don’t know. Yeah, the political landscape is always fraught with peril, and just about the time you think you got it figured out, it doesn’t change.
COVID is changing Africa as we speak. Where do you see the world and the world after COVID coexisting with COVID in the next two, three, five years?
COVID is changing Africa. Where do we see that happening? What will be the situation in the next two to five years? I’m worried about Africa. Somewhere between three to five percent of the population has been vaccinated. Most of the communities where we work can’t even get a test. I watched what happened in Sierra Leone, Liberia, with Ebola. We were big into that area during the Ebola crisis. Thank goodness that wasn’t airborne. But I don’t know; we’ve got doctors that have gone to some of these places, and they talk about hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people dying, so I don’t know. That’s the concern I have about that poverty line. You lose mom; you lose dad; you lose a family. What do you do when they don’t even understand why they got sick?
Here’s the only bright spot in that. Many people still live rurally, and they have de facto social distancing. Some of these places are not seeing it hit because they live so far apart. But in the cities, like Nigeria has 230 million people all crammed into a state the size of Texas. Maybe a little bit Oklahoma. Two-thirds of the population of the United States all live in Texas. Lagos, Nigeria, scares me. That could be a problem.
I’m not an epidemiologist, but I can tell you that every time someone gets COVID, it’s a little bit different when they pass it along. We were just in Nashville a week ago with the people who had invented the Moderna vaccine. What a bunch of cool people. They told us Art Denison said, “I’ve been working on this for the last seven years. I got intrigued with it when it was SARS the first time. I decided that what I wanted to do was to spend my time researching it when it became Coronavirus because I thought it would probably happen.”
James Crowe was the person who probably will receive the Nobel prize, and he was the one who figured out the protein spikes on the cell. That was the birthplace of the mRNA. They’ve been working on this for a long time. When we talked to those guys, they talked about what’s the future of this and what we will do because it mutates all the time. If it sits in a significant population of people and it mutates, you’re going to get a different disease. That’s precisely what we’re seeing with Omicron, what we saw with Epsilon, what we saw with Delta. That’s a big, big, big concern. Huge concern.
All the consumables that we get are all new, and so that’s your needles, syringes, gloves, gauze, bandages, all that kind of stuff. The equipment is probably 80% used and 20% new. We’re working with big manufacturers like Hill-Rom, Stryker, and places like that. The Stryker bed story is kind of a cool deal because back when we were worried that we were going to have to turn all of our convention centers and shopping malls into triage centers, Stryker went to work, and they manufactured this bed. It’s manual. It’s about 11 inches off the ground. It’s got wheels on it. You don’t have to have side rails. It has an articulated back so that you can ventilate on it. It has an IV pole. From conception to manufacturing, it was seven days on this bed. They manufactured 25,000 of these beds, which was the correct answer. But we got a call from Stryker, and they said, “Would you guys like these beds?” And they sent a picture over. I said, “Yeah. Sure. We’ll take them. By the way, how many?” And they said 22,500, wow.
Welch Allyn just did the same thing with inter-temporal thermometers, scan thermometers. Forty-five thousand thermometers, bringing them in a box. They were building them faster than we could consume them, and they didn’t need them. We get a lot of things like that.
And then, of course, if it’s used, you got to repair it. You got to make sure it works. That’s what that needs assessment does. There’s no sense in sending an X-ray machine into a community with no electricity. But at the same time, we’re working in pretty sophisticated places. We work in Greece. We do some work in Serbia. During COVID, we did a lot of work in northern Canada, of all things, with the First Nations peoples. So some sophisticated stuff has a home too. Absolutely.