Peter R. Dolan T'80

Peter R. Dolan T'80

"...we can be the world's innovator of new medications and expedite access to them."

An Investment of Spirit and Know-How

Peter Dolan accentuates the positive. As CEO of Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), he understands the importance of sustaining a multiple-front offense against disease. To that end, BMS has dedicated significant resources to Secure the Future¨, its anti-AIDS initiative in Africa. The program represents an investment in spirit and corporate know-how as well as cash.

Secure the Future arose from discussions between BMS and U.N. Secretary- General Kofi Annan, and BMS's original commitment of $100 million has now risen to $120 million. The money has aided more than 180 programs in nine countries ranging from community-based efforts to prevent mother-child transmission of HIV to the creation, in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine, of model centers in Botswana, Swaziland, and Lesotho for the treatment of pediatric AIDS.

In January, Dolan traveled to Africa to review these good works in progress. "It's much more real when you visit the sites. The impact stays with you forever," he says, recalling his meeting with a woman who is HIV-positive but whose child was born negative, thanks to a BMS program, and a group of grandmothers trained and supported through a BMS-funded local project to care for their grandchildren orphaned by AIDS.

At a launch for a new community treatment program in Ladysmith, South Africa, he found himself extolled to a crowd of 5,000 by a "praise healer." Dolan's wife, Katie Lange Dolan—also T'80 and now the holder of a second master's degree, from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies—and their two teenage sons accompanied him to Africa. Their younger son, who had thought that the journey would be depressing, didn't anticipate seeing his father hailed as a national hero. "He was suitably impressed," says Dolan.

Dolan is clear about the proper role of a global corporation in combating a disease that kills 5,000 to 8,000 Africans daily (the equivalent of December's tsunami death toll every three or four weeks). "It's not just about offering drugs at no profit," he says. "We can't be the world's supplier of discount anti-AIDS medicines—we don't have the capacity. But we can be the world's innovator of new medications and expedite access to them." Donor corporations like BMS, he says, should complement financial contributions with their expertise in complex project management, monitoring and evaluation, organizational management, strategic planning, and finance. "We've learned that a global business model is urgently required."

They've also learned that even the most generously funded initiatives won't work unless integrated systems are in place to support them. "If medications have to be taken with food and there is no food, or if blood levels need to be checked regularly and that's hard to do, you can address those problems."

In a speech at Tuck's Investiture in 2002, Dolan called his job the greatest opportunity of his life. "The ability to make a difference...to impact the lives of millions through healthcare, is an extraordinary opportunity," he said. He finds these sentiments even more true today.