Q & A with Susan Burris, GSK Pulse volunteer


In this staff spotlight, we introduce to you, Susan Burris, the GSK volunteer who has been working with PIH-IMB for six months and just concluded her tenure. We thought it would be great learning more about Susan, her contribution to PIH-IMB’s vision and mission; as well as know more about GSK and its partnership with PIH. We had an interesting conversation with Susan who was glad to share with us about herself.

As we begin our conversation, would you briefly tell us about yourself (who is Susan Burris, what do you do, what were you doing before joining PIH-IMB)?

I am a nurse by training with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from DePauw University and a Master of Science in Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs from the Temple University, Philadelphia PA. I am married with three children - a girl and two boys. Since 1995, I have worked in different countries around three continents in various areas including clinical research, operations, project management, etc.

As a GSK employee, I was assigned to volunteer with PIH-IMB for six months, working mainly on developing a curriculum for nurses on essential skills required to work in neonatal care Unit, assessing clinical research readiness and supporting the implementation of breast cancer study at Butaro District Hospital, among other projects.

What inspired you to work with IMB?

I actually hadn’t chosen to work with IMB, because GSK’s system works in a way that volunteers don’t chose placement organizations. It is GSK that chooses placement organizations for volunteers according to their respective areas of interest. However, I had heard great stories about Partners in Health through previous GSK volunteers, and knowing IMB as its sister organization was so interesting. So, I looked forward to learning more about it as well as do my best to contribute to its vision and mission. I had also read about Paul Farmers’ book and that also stimulated my desire to work with one of the PIH sites, discovering the incredible journey that Dr. Farmer and his colleagues had made since the beginning.

How was your perception of IMB’s work before you joined and how do you view it now?

Like mentioned, I had a very good perception from the stories I had heard from other volunteers as well as the readings. However, I couldn’t have appreciated PIH and particularly IMB if I hadn’t been directly involved in their work. One thing that fascinated me about IMB is its structure, there is a kind spirit that you feel everywhere around IMB. IMB also helped me live my faith. The culture of praying always during weekly meetings is just an amazing moment for me at IMB and I must say it helped me put my faith into action; something that I will forever cherish.

What is one remarkable thing do you feel proud of being part of IMB?

Well, I am so proud of quite many things but one thing I must highlight is that through my work with IMB, I have learnt to be a good listener. My job at IMB involved working with different people and through various interactions with them, I gradually developed incredible listening skills; and as you know if you are a good listener, you empathize and through empathy you value the people that you serve, hence serve them better.

We would like to know about GSK and its relationship with PIH, do you mind highlighting something about that?

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is pharmaceutical company which aims to bring differentiated, high-quality and needed healthcare products to as many people as possible, with three global businesses, scientific and technical know-how and talented people.

GSK’s PULSE Volunteer Partnership is GSK’s skills-based volunteering initiative. Through PULSE, motivated employees are matched to a non-profit organization for three or six months full-time, contributing their skills to solve healthcare challenges at home and abroad. When PULSE Volunteers return to GSK, they act as catalysts to change the company for the better. Through this initiative, GSK has had a great relationship with PIH. GSK volunteers are placed in various PIH sites, contributing to the development and implementation of different PIH programs ranging from procurement to Clinical research, monitoring, operations, project management, supply chain management, etc.

Finally, what will you miss most about IMB when you return home?

Well, I will miss quite a lot of things but especially friends, housemates, Rwanda’s nature, village life where I met heart-warming people who always stopped to say hello to me with lovely smiles. I really felt Rwanda as my second home. It’s sad that I have to go back but I will carry with me lots of great memories of a wonderful community – the PIH-IMB family and other community members in ‘Rwink’.

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