Today we say goodbye to our CEO, Jane Prior after five years of her leadership. It’s a mixed day for those of us in the organisation and as Editor of the newsletter, I wanted to catch a few moments with her to find out what were some of her personal highlights in this journey.
Q: It has been five years since you joined the BMDP so what is the main highlight for you during that period?
JP – Most definitely the things that stand out are the people and relationships that I have forged along the way. Our message and asking the general public to step forward and become a bone marrow donor is not an easy one – we are pushing against years of pre-conceived ideas and misconceptions and for most people it’s difficult to grasp the need when the patient doesn’t even have a face or identity.
It has been an amazing five years with more that 45,000 new donors signing up to the register and we have developed a professional services offering to the transplant hospitals that saves the patients both time and money. None of this would have been possible except for the rest of the BMDP team. I am honoured to have smart, passionate and committed people working beside me and they should all be very proud of their achievements knowing that they played a part in saving so many lives and how many people can say this.
I cannot talk about highlights and not mention World Marrow Donor Day. Crazy Idea but we wanted to get 50 volunteers to stand absolutely still as “living statues” in Orchard Road painted silver or gold. Our message was that ”the world stands still and life stops when anyone is diagnosed with a blood disease”. We were overwhelmed by the response which brought a wide range of people out to join us – from bankers to IT workers, families and even some of our patients. All painted from head to toe in silver, gold or orangeand they did bring Orchard Road to a stop for a few precious hours with many people coming to sign up as donors at the same time. Hats off to the team who had to put up with their crazy CEO who said ”we can do this” – and then they all surprised themselves when we did it!
Then we have Ah Siao! A crazy man indeed who pledged to do the impossible and pull a tyre the whole length of the marathon to demonstrate that people can overcome hardship and achieve the impossible, if they only make an effort and commit to try. Ah Siao started a movement and runners nationwide all got to hear about the BMDP – again making a huge impact but most importantly, he demonstrated that being a donor is just about making the commitment.
Q: what else do you see as a measure of success?
JP – When I started five years ago, we had very few partners who were willing to commit to us and help on a long-term basis. Today we have more than 30 Junior Colleges and Tertiary Institutions who work with us regularly, making the BMDP a part of their curriculum. Through the Patronage of Minister K. Shanmugam, we partner with the Home Team and Civil Defence Force so now all young NS-men get to hear our story and many of them make the commitment to sign up.
I feel this success comes not only from the work of the team, but also the strength of our message which asks an individual to make a commitment to help another human being. I like to say that we are re-igniting the “Kampong Spirit” in the community and that is a very compelling argument as to why any organisation or individual should support our cause.
Q: The years have not all been smooth sailing – what were some of the main challenges that you faced?
JP – Like any organisation going through a period of fast growth, this in itself brings a number of challenges. How to keep everyone aligned to the mission and vision which can somehow become lost in the urgency of the work and in our case, it was a challenge to keep abreast of the huge amount of back-office support activities that are needed.
Q: To inspire a team every day is a hard task so how were you able to keep your own passion alive on a routine basis?
JP – Oh that one is easy! As many people will know, our family benefitted from the generosity of a stranger who donated bone marrow for our eldest son more than 20 years ago. In doing so, she not only saved a little boy from inevitable death, but she also kept our family intact.
On those days when I have been frustrated or disappointed by bad news such as people and organisations refusing to help us, I am re-energised by the fact that child has now grown to become my best friend and the very fact he is able to get on with his own life, is a source of inspiration.
There are other patients who inspire us when they reach beyond the stark reality of their own situation to see how they can help us through sharing their story and being an inspiration to others. I know I speak for the whole team that it is a privilege to be invited into their lives at a most difficult time and to explore how their own situation can be a beacon of hope for other patients sometime in the future.
Q: Any final thoughts or message that you would like to share
JP – Life isn’t meant to be easy and it is the challenges, and how we respond to them, that shapes each of us as individuals. Do we come away from a difficult period saying “enough, and I will never do that again”, or is it an opportunity to seize with both hands and bring that learning to future life-experiences.
I would like to believe that all the staff working within the BMDP bring a resilience that will help them overcome any knock-back or hurdles they encounter in their future careers. At the same time, our culture is one of trying out new ideas, giving them a test drive and if we get the results we want, fantastic, if not, then let’s try again until we do succeed. This in itself is unusual when so many people want a rule book by which to operate and within the BMDP, we push people out of the comfort zone, and most often they surprise themselves with the opportunity this brings and the success they see.
The wins across the education, government and community sectors were won through hard work, persistence and drive and that’s perhaps the signature to the BMDP’s recent successes – and a trademark of our amazing team.