John Donnelly: Running the Distance for Global Healing
From the fall of 2015 to early 2019, Global Healing was fortunate to have at our helm John Donnelly, a longtime leader in global health whose vision and expertise have left a lasting impact on our organization. As Donnelly begins his well-earned retirement, we want to take a moment to thank him for his inspiring service to our organization.
Among his many achievements, Donnelly was instrumental in building resources for Global Healing by recruiting new board members with diverse skills and networks, and increasing donor contributions as well as grant funding.
After working for many years in vaccine research, development and distribution Donnelly heard about Global Healing’s search for an executive director and was drawn to the mission of the organization and intrigued by the idea of running a small nonprofit doing big work.
“Almost no other nonprofit takes on the challenge of improving standards of care by training local physicians and nurses in developing nations,” Donnelly said. “Other organizations do training for community health workers but there’s very little training for the doctors and nurses working on the front lines of hospital care. That makes us unique.”
For the first six months on the job as executive director, Donnelly said, “I was scratching my head about why no one else does this work, but then it became clear to me why: It’s hard as hell to pay for it.”
As a nonprofit with only three paid staff, Global Healing must do a lot with a little, and Donnelly worked tirelessly to build the organization’s funding base.
“I would like to see us develop the resources,” Donnelly said, “to allow us to put physician and nurse trainers in program sites for more sustained periods of contact, and also to bring local physicians and nurses to the U.S. for more advanced training. It’s really just a matter of money.”
Unlike nonprofits that work in the public health or global health space, noted Donnelly, Global Healing works in hospital care so most of our projects involve one physician or nurse training a few other physicians or nurses in a very personal and interactive way.
This approach delivers very high value training but because of Global Healing’s small size does not affect a large number of people. “So the challenge,” Donnelly said, “is to make the case that what Global Healing does is important, and it needs to do a whole lot more of it.”
In visits to our program sites in Vietnam, Honduras, and Tbilisi, Georgia, Donnelly saw firsthand the need for and the impact of the work.
“I loved all of those trips. You could get a very strong sense of how much the work of Global Healing was needed and how much the organization brings to the places where it works,” he said. “Our doctor and nurse volunteers are the heart and soul of Global Healing. These are people with incredibly demanding and stressful jobs who donate what little vacation time they have to their counterparts who do not have access to all the things that U.S. physicians and nurses take for granted. They are inspired by the sacrifices of the doctors, nurses and patients in our program sites and I am inspired by them. Our donors, who are our very lifeblood, are inspired by them also.”
While Global Healing’s excellent model is greatly needed and scalable, we can only expand our impact if we build our resources to allow us to place volunteers in more projects and provide them with enough support.
“At the end of day, we need more donors who believe in our mission and understand the importance of what we do,” Donnelly said, “and partners who can help provide us the reach and scale that could really give us global impact. My only wish as I depart is that thousands more people come to know about us and the importance of our work, and are empowered to join Global Healing in its mission.”
Donnelly integrated his passions for running and global health by spearheading our participation in local races, such as the Berkeley Half Marathon and the San Francisco Marathon. These efforts brought in new supporters and increased donor giving, transforming Global Healing from a philanthropic organization to a more agile nonprofit.
During Donnelly’s tenure Global Healing received our first large federal grant with a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to support the comprehensive pediatric cancer center at the Jo Ann Medical Center (JAMC) in Tbilisi, Georgia. This new center propels Global Healing further toward realizing our vision of a world where all children and mothers with life-threatening conditions are cared for by local, skilled healthcare professionals.
Now “technically retired,” Donnelly is doing some consulting work in vaccines but spending most of his time fishing, traveling and working on his garden. He looks back on his time at Global Healing with gratitude for the staff, volunteers, board and partners who “worked tirelessly to accomplish the goals that Global Healing has set for itself to improve medical care by the transfer of knowledge to people who need it.
It was such a wonderful experience to do this job, and the best part of it was the people I was privileged to work with.”
From all of us at Global Healing, thank you, John Donnelly, for doing an extraordinary job over the past three years to increase our resources and our impact around the world.