Guest columnist and former CEO Rob Perez left his career in the private sector to become Founder and Chairman of Life Science Cares, a collective effort to unite the human and financial resources of life science companies to help fight poverty in the Boston community.
Read his story here, and be inspired to start your own "second act".
My "Next Act": Uniting the Life Science Industry to Alleviate Poverty
Indulge me for a moment and think back to when you were 15 years old. You're in high school, being asked to think about what you want for your future, what you want to "be when you grow up." You were smart, talented, full of potential. It's that same potential that ultimately helped propel you to the success that you have now deservedly attained.
Now the hard part: Imagine 15-year-old you, with all of that same potential, but in a different family and different environment. You live in a one-bedroom apartment in Roxbury, with three younger siblings and your single mother. Your mother has been laid off from one of her two jobs and now needs you to work in order to help put food on the table for your family. You quit school to work and help your family survive. Years later, you're without a high school diploma and have no real prospects for a career. You are too tired and frustrated to figure out how to change your circumstance, stuck in a vicious circle and never realizing the tremendous potential within you.
So where do you end up? Same place as you are now? Somewhere else?
We live and work in an area in which the opportunity gap between rich and poor is growing, a factor that has been cited as a root cause for many of the critical issues facing our society. Crime, race relations, educational achievement, health care expenditures, unemployment, and even basic human rights, are all impacted at some level by the fact that an increasing number of Americans are finding it harder and harder to keep pace.
According to the Brookings Institute, Boston had the widest gap in income between rich and poor of any city in the US in 2014. Our knowledge economy, driven in large part by our life sciences sector, has fueled a financial boom from which many of us, including yours truly, have benefited greatly. Unfortunately, those who have not had the good fortune to ride this wave of growth are finding it increasingly hard to keep up. The cost of housing, food, childcare, education and healthcare are all growing at a pace that exceeds income growth for many people.
No sector exemplifies the new Boston economy more than the life sciences industry. We have become the leading industry in the Commonwealth by any measure, and we are all proud of the work we are doing to enhance human health by bringing scientific innovation to life, each and every day.
Our industry is made up of people who care deeply about humanity. Our employees and leaders choose this work not only because it promises to provide a good living, but because the fruits of our labor will ultimately make a difference in the lives of patients.
It is that spirit of community and concern about the greater good that has led a number of leaders within the life sciences industry to form Life Science Cares. We recognize that all of our efforts are connected, and that none of our companies or individuals can succeed without the help and support of our neighbors, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet. We realize that for every talented scientist whose insight drives a new innovation, there is a single mother who is working a second job as an Uber driver driving him to work. For every brilliant physician who is designing a clinical trial, there is a young man serving her lunch in the company cafeteria during the day and going to school at night, trying to find a way to get ahead.
About Life Science Cares
In 2015, after a blissful 11-year run at Cubist Pharmaceuticals, I found myself in the unexpected position of contemplating my future when the company was acquired by Merck. While I loved (almost) every aspect of leading Cubist, my favorite part was helping to develop the unique culture that was a hallmark of the organization. A big part of that culture was our extraordinary commitment to the community. We attracted people who were not only great at their job, but also cared deeply about their neighbors who were not as fortunate. Being involved in the community, and helping others in the company do so as well, was by far the part of my job that gave me the greatest joy.
As I thought about what I wanted to do with my "next act" I was given advice by almost everyone that I needed pursue another CEO role. After all, I was still young, and my official time as CEO of Cubist was extremely short. There were many enticing, and frankly, flattering offers that were hard to pass up, but I had spent the previous few years trying to figure out what made me happy, and found that nothing provided a greater return on happiness than giving back to others who were not blessed with the luck to which I had greatly benefited.
So, after much reflection and terrific insight from close friends and family, I decided to dedicate my time to starting Life Science Cares. The idea for Life Science Cares is simple, to harness the human and financial resources of the life sciences industry and provide support to those service organizations doing the best work to fight poverty in greater Boston.
Life Science Cares is a collective effort of over 100 (and growing) companies and industry leaders who have joined together to fight poverty in greater Boston. These leaders have all committed their personal time and treasure to this effort, including agreeing to share in covering the administrative costs of the organization, so that 100% of every dollar we raise from companies and individuals goes to our service partners doing the best work in fighting poverty.
While providing financial investments is clearly one of the ways we help our nonprofit partners, Life Science Cares also galvanizes the tremendous human capital available in our community, by deploying volunteer time and talent to our partner organizations so that they can be even more effective and serve more of their constituents.
Life Science Cares supports service organizations doing work in three areas:
Call to action:
To those associated in any way with the Boston life sciences community, we invite you to join our effort. Here's how you can help:
- Volunteer with our nonprofit partners. We have an ongoing list of volunteer opportunities and would love to have you join our team. Just email LSC Executive Director Sarah MacDonald at Sarah@lifesciencecares.org to get added to the list. Or, connect us with the person within your organization who oversees employee engagement or communications so we can set up a strategy to get your whole team involved.
- Join the Council of Champions. The Council of Champions are our "boots on the ground," as we plan and grow our work.
- Donate. Encourage others to donate. We are seeking both individual and corporate financial support from the industry. You can donate online with one-time or monthly contributions. Your donations are tax deductible, and every dollar we raise will go to fighting poverty in greater Boston.
- Connect with us. Sign up for our newsletter. Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn so that you can stay informed on the latest news and events for the organization.
If you need more information, contact Sarah MacDonald, Executive Director, at Sarah@lifesciencecares.org.
I have seen firsthand the incredible power of our industry when we work together to solve complex challenges in science and human health. Join me and Life Science Cares to use that same power to impact the community around us!