A graduate of Beijing Medical University, Shitong Huan worked for 5 years at the Beijing Tuberculosis and Thoracic Tumor Research Institute and then worked for another 5 years at the Chinese Ministry of Health. When the foundation established its China office, he jumped at the opportunity to join as a senior program officer focusing on tuberculosis.
When I explain my job to family and friends, I say we’re working to solve public health problems through innovation and partnerships. To an outsider, it might appear that the foundation has unlimited resources. Internally, we know different. To achieve our goals, we work very cautiously, make sacrifices, and try to make strategic decisions about our investments. These are difficult things. With most drug and vaccine development efforts, you can’t guarantee results, but you do have to make decisions on when to stop or continue. You may be just one step away from success if you continue, but you don’t know. It’s always a tough decision.
It’s important to know that we are shapers, not doers. However, in my six years here, we’ve changed the way we shape things. We’ve always relied on grantees to have clear goals and to use the money they receive to fund those appropriately. But, as the foundation has grown larger and has even more reach, we have evolved our own strategies. We monitor and measure for impact the work more closely—we don’t just give away money.
The foundation is not a place for someone just starting in his or her career. We look for people who have experience and capacity but also feel something in common with the foundation. It’s a place where, if you have a dream and your dream and experience align with the foundation goals, you should apply.
However, even dreamers cannot work alone. There are many very intelligent, hardworking, and capable people here, and you can always learn from someone. When you work here, you work as a group, strategically. You can say you want to do good for people, but you need to map out a pathway and have an end point, which may be 10, 20, or 30 years away. So, in addition to a dream, you have ideas about how to achieve it and work with people who will acknowledge when you’re going in the right direction.
Our new CEO recently said that the first thing you need is passion. Passion gives you the power to chase your dreams. It can also help you handle the demands of the role. Collectively, we must have the capacity to continuously grow, learn, and adapt.