Today I’d like to share a few reflections on CIDRZ on this special 2016 Labour Day celebration. My reflections are on service, on our commitment to excellence and results, and about the great future we’re embarking on as the “new” CIDRZ, each of which contribute to this year’s national Labour Day theme of “Achieving national development through productive decent work, sustainable job creation, and social justice.”
On our service: Service can be difficult. It is never just putting in your time, it can frustrate you, it can tire you to the bone, and there is always a new challenge. A quote that is relevant to some of the challenges of service, and that has meant a lot to me over the years is from the 26th American President, Teddy Roosevelt. In a speech given in the year 1910 at a university in Paris, he said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”
In the case of CIDRZ, we are serving a great mission every day we come to work. For example, by helping to establish the effectiveness of rotavirus vaccine in Zambia, and building a 359 piece cold chain for its distribution around the country in partnership with the Government, our collective work has protected an entire generation of children who will not get sick and potentially be lost to diarrhoea caused by rotavirus. It was not just one person or even one team that did this; it was the whole of CIDRZ. It was Fleet, it was Finance, it was HR and Procurement, it was Internal Audit, it was Facilities, and of course it was the project teams and their great leadership and partnership with Government.
The same goes for the launching of the GeneXpert, a better tool for diagnosing Tuberculosis, which thanks to the “whole of CIDRZ,” is now screening prisoners at high-risk for TB at Lusaka Central Prison and in clinical sites through programmes funded by PEPFAR through the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
None of this was easy, but the rewards of our service are truly life changing – not only for those we serve, but even for those of us who serve. Indeed scientific study after study demonstrates that serving others is one of the greatest predictors of happiness and fulfillment in life. When our service feels daunting or frustrating, or we face our own or other’s shortcomings, let us step back and think about what were are contributing to our friends and our neighbours – the people of Zambia.
On our commitment to excellence and results: As I said at our End of the Year Meeting last year, we have some of the most committed people in the world working for CIDRZ. Every day I see people committed to excellence and bringing their best to their work. This has shown in our results in nearly EVERY programme this year, from our BetterInfo study targeting HIV programme retention, to our HIV, cervical cancer and TB programmes, to the Clinical Trials Unit and the Laboratory that consistently produces accurate results for doctors, nurses and patients who rely on them. Our awards ceremony later today will celebrate some of our Most Innovative, Most Outstanding, Most Cost-Efficient, and Most Committed and Hard Working people who have contributed to these results.
Lastly, I want to reflect briefly on the great future ahead for CIDRZ. It has been said that the last 3-4 years at CIDRZ were a turnaround process. The organisation truth be told, had fallen off track. With incredible leadership over the last few years from our Deputy CEO, and our entire Executive Committee and Leadership Team and Management Forum, we’ve cleaned up all of the serious issues that were identified at that time. We’ve settled our historical tax issues; become compliant with local Labour laws; moved towards university research partners that are most aligned to our mission of doing work that benefits Zambia and builds local scientific talent, and taken our Laboratory from being nearly closed in early 2013 to one of the best labs in the region in 2016, as evidenced in part by our submission for ISO accreditation, and the results of recent quality testing and audits. We’ve also made the organisation flatter – there are many more people involved in day-to-day decision-making now than in the past, and our leadership is largely local. We have also recruited a 10-member Board of Directors comprising a cross-section of Zambian society and global health leadership that governs the organisation and is truly invested in our future.
All of this allows us to better serve our mission. And it is not an abstract mission. Our successes and our service are felt by the little girl walking around Kalikiliki who is free from life-threatening illness from rotavirus disease because of the vaccination programme we supported the government to develop, and equally by the woman and mother of 3 who has been weakened by tuberculosis and yet didn’t know why she was unable to gather her usual strength and contribute to her family’s wellbeing until she received a diagnosis from a GeneXpert machine that we as CIDRZ placed, with support from our donors.
This service and partnership with Government, this commitment to excellence and results, and our successes in turning around this organisation gives us a bright future ahead. I just returned from the US where I met with three of our biggest partners and donors. I was told repeatedly that we are now viewed as one of their best and most productive partners, and I heard about their many exciting plans to support us in the years to come. So, on this Labour Day celebration, let us enjoy celebrating our successes and contributions, and congratulations to the “new” CIDRZ!
Dr Charles Holmes
CEO – CIDRZ
6th May 2016