Making A Difference
Carol Plank had the desire to make a difference and, in her tenure at Pfizer, she had the chance to do so. She has the unique distinction of having been the very first Pfizer Global Health Fellow (GHF). Through the GHF program, Pfizer loans its most valuable asset—its people—to nonprofit organizations in the developing world to help address systemic health care challenges. Each year, Pfizer deploys up to 50 talented colleagues to work on high-impact, capacity building projects.
In August 2003 Carol began a six-month assignment at the AIDS institute in Kampala, Uganda. "I left my heart over there," Carol said. "I had a calling to go to Africa and spent a year and a half trying to get there on my own. Along came the Global Health Fellows program and it gave me that opportunity." After her initial GHF tour, Pfizer had her return to Africa once again where she worked on initiating malaria drug trials.
Carol also enjoyed making a difference in the United States through the work she did in Clinical Research and for HR as an exemplary 'diversity' Pfizer colleague. Carol worked with Pfizer for eight years, during which she held several positions, including Clinical Research Associate, team trainer and regional monitor of clinical development. Her last position was as regional site lead reporting into the New London, Connecticut, headquarters.
Some of her favorite job responsibilities include the global data project she worked on just prior to her retirement. "Working on that project seemed a wonderful transition from my GHF work. I was gathering information from around the world for Pfizer's Clinical Research and Development effort," said Carol. She also enjoyed working with college students when the Human Resources group assigned her to diversity recruitment at the University of Buffalo. She got two standing ovations for her recruiting team presentation because of the way she personified the diversity of the population at Pfizer and the opportunities the company offers. She sported a rainbow flag and her gray hair let everyone know she had a voice of experience.
"There I was, a 58-year old, gay woman who had had the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way with the work I performed every day. And I was getting the opportunity of a lifetime to fulfill a personal dream of doing significant work in Africa," said Carol.
Helping Pfizer's PAC Team
Carol also served above and beyond her job description as an enlisted member of Pfizer's Political Action Committee (PAC). She traveled to Washington, D.C., and spoke with government representatives about drug importing. She joined with sales team members to convey facts that strengthened the company's position. Carol's ability to relate her Global Health Fellows story to the drug import issue helped bring enthusiasm and distinctive understanding to the examination of economics and politics in Africa.
"I could tell members of Congress what I had seen for myself in Uganda and let them know a little more about the conditions there than any written report could convey" she said. In addition, Carol attended The Malaria Conference, an international meeting in Washington attended by the World Health Organization and other health care experts, where the Pfizer PAC team presented information about the quality control of drugs crossing borders.
Still Working to Make a Difference
Carol retired in 2007 and moved to Missoula, Montana. She enjoys the diverse community there, where she can take advantage of the many cultural opportunities associated with the University of Montana. "Living in a university town helps keep you active, and there is more social diversity here than one might find in other areas of the state," Carol said.
She enjoys hiking, biking, traveling, and, of course, helping others. She volunteers at the Jeanette Rankin Peace Center, which is named after the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress—before women had the right to vote—who lost her job when she voted against entering World War II. Carol also puts her sewing and embroidery skills to use as a volunteer for the Missoula Children's Theatre. She sews costumes for the nonprofit group that travels across the country to teach theater to various schools and helps create jobs for the school's graduates.
"What I learned in Africa has helped everywhere in my life," Carol said. "For example, I no longer automatically assume that my understanding of a situation is the correct or complete one." Carol remembers thinking she'd be doing a good deed by buying electricity for the family of the driver she worked with as a Global Health Fellow. He was building a home for his family and was excited and proud to have electricity for his home. However, when she went back to visit, she discovered that the meter showed only about 16 kilowatts of use, because he couldn't afford to use it.
Carol is hoping to return to Africa once again. She dreams of putting together a group similar to the Global Health Fellows to continue the work still needed in Africa. She hopes to identify what the greatest needs are and how best to target and meet them. "Sustainability is the tough part," she said. "I welcome any thoughts fellow Pfizer retirees might have, perhaps in getting a group of retirees connected with placements and/or devising a group project together."
Carol can be contacted through the email listed in her Pfizer PLUS Community profile: firstname.lastname@example.org.