Episode 192 – Project C.U.R.E. Delivering Health and Hope

Original Air Date

Run Time

37 Minutes
Home Manage This Podcast Episode 192 – Project C.U.R.E. Delivering Health and Hope

About This Episode

Dave Maddux

Project C.U.R.E. was founded in 1987 to address the staggering shortage of medical resources around the world. It has become the world’s largest distributor of donated medical supplies, equipment and services to doctors and nurses serving the sick and dying in more than 135 countries. Each week Project C.U.R.E. delivers approximately three to five semi-truck-sized ocean containers packed with the medical equipment and supplies desperately needed to save lives in hospitals and clinics in resource-limited countries. In addition, each year hundreds of healthcare professionals travel with Project C.U.R.E. to provide medical treatment to communities in need and training to those dedicated to serving them. Project C.U.R.E. is supported by over 30,000 volunteers annually and operates distribution warehouses in seven U.S. cities.

Our guest Dave Maddux, is the Special Project Manager at Project C.U.R.E. When unforeseen urgent tasks arise, it’s crucial to learn the art of shifting gears to navigate the intricate balance between planned strategic projects and sudden, pressing urgencies. Learn firsthand how Dave navigates this delicate balance, ensuring success every step of the way. Many of Dave’s projects are international, and he discusses establishing successful relationships with his international teams. Dave’s project teams consist mostly of volunteers, and he shares the particular challenges he has encountered within his teams and projects. Listen in for Dave’s advice on nurturing relationships with sponsors, and how assessing each project’s need involves a careful process, relying on specific criteria to gauge the project’s scope. We dive into Dave’s treasure trove of leadership lessons and project management wisdom, honed through his invaluable experiences at Project C.U.R.E.

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Favorite Quotes from Episode

"…there's a giant difference between agreement and alignment. You know, we can all agree on what our end goal is, but I think if we're not all aligned in the same goal, the results aren't nearly the same."

Dave Maddux

"…a lot of things we do are pretty amazing. I mean, every place we go into, we tend to lower infant mortality rates. We're able to offer better care in the places we go into."

Dave Maddux

The podcast by project managers, for project managers.  Project C.U.R.E. has become the world’s largest distributor of donated medical supplies, equipment and services to doctors and nurses serving the sick and dying in more than 135 countries. Dave Maddux, shares invaluable project insights on addressing the critical shortage of medical resources worldwide.

Table of Contents

02:15 … Project C.U.R.E.
03:59 … Dave’s Role as Special Projects Manager
05:14 … International Projects
07:06 … Switching Between Strategic and Urgent
09:59 … International Teams
12:12 … Team Highlights and Lowlights
14:24 … Selling the “Why” behind C.U.R.E
17:03 … Establishing Long-Term Volunteer Loyalty
18:34 … Sponsor Relationships
21:13 … Spreading the Word
23:51 … Assessing the Project Scope
25:54 … Meeting the Customer’s Needs
29:18 … Technical Support for Equipment
31:25 … Dave’s Lessons Learned on Projects
33:23 … “What I wish I had Known”
35:07 … Find Out More
36:40 … Closing

DAVE MADDUX: …there’s a giant difference between agreement and alignment. You know, we can all agree on what our end goal is, but I think if we’re not all aligned in the same goal, the results aren’t nearly the same.

WENDY GROUNDS: Welcome to Manage This the podcast by project managers, for project managers, I’m Wendy Grounds. With me are Bill Yates and Danny Brewer. We love bringing you project stories and today’s project story is one that we are so excited to share with you. Our guest’s name is Dave Maddux, and Dave is the special project manager at Project C.U.R.E. Before that, he spent eight years as a field project supervisor for the Home Office of Sam’s Club and Walmart doing new store rebuilds and remodels.

We’re excited to hear his story about Project C.U.R.E. Now Project C.U.R.E. “C U R E” stands for Commission on Urgent Relief and Equipment. Project C.U.R.E has become the world’s largest distributor of donated medical supplies, equipment and services to doctors and nurses serving the sick and the dying in more than 135 countries. One of the things I found on the website that they say is ultimately they believe where you live shouldn’t determine whether you live.

BILL YATES: That’s impactful. Project C.U.R.E.’s Cargo program delivers 40 foot cargo containers that are stuffed to the top. Sometimes the value is between 350,000 and 400,000 dollars worth of donated medical supplies and equipment. Dave will describe more about what’s in there. And it’s being sent to under-resourced hospitals, clinics and community health centers in developing countries. One of the things that Dave shares with us is over the lifetime, Project C.U.R.E. has delivered over 1 billion in medical supplies to these needy locations.

Dave has a background with the Navy. He’s done a lot of project management work, as we mentioned, Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart. He brings a unique perspective to this not for profit role that he’s in now. We’re going to hear some great advice from Dave.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Hi, Dave. Welcome to Manage This. We are thrilled to have you here. Thank you so much for being our guest.

DAVE MADDUX: Thank you very much for having me.

Project C.U.R.E.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Can you describe for our listeners a little bit about what Project C.U.R.E. is and just the scope and the reach of your programs?

DAVE MADDUX:   Project C.U.R.E. got started in 1987 by Jim Jackson, who did wealth Management similar, and he went to this little neighborhood in Brazil on one of his trips and just realized in one of the medical clinics that they had nothing. They were rerolling Band-Aids and they were reusing needles and things like that.

He came back to Denver and got with a friend of his. And they started with $50,000 in a garage full of medical supplies and decided to start shipping all over the world. At this point, what we focus on is 40 foot Conexes for everything that we do. And we’ve been to 135 countries around the world. Everything comes from hospitals, hospital supply companies, individuals. It’s all donated Project C.U.R.E.’s the world’s largest supplier of donated medical goods. And each year we do about 225 Conexes.

BILL YATES:  Wow. By a Conex you mean like a 40 foot cargo container that we see on the ships?

DAVE MADDUX:  Exactly, yeah, a 40 foot cargo container. And typically they’re going to regions where we’ve done assessments first. We’re a little unusual in that, in that we go everywhere first because it doesn’t really have a benefit for us to ship cardiac supplies someplace that doesn’t do heart surgery and so we go to the places first, figure out exactly what we need, and then we’re able to tailor one of those 40 foot containers to whatever they need.

BILL YATES:  It’s really cool to me. I mean, great companies start in a garage, and here’s this amazing effort that began in a garage where people saw the need to supply medical supplies across the world.

Dave’s Role as Special Projects Manager

WENDY GROUNDS:  Now, your title is Special Projects Manager. So tell us about yourself and what you do for Project C.U.R.E.

DAVE MADDUX: My operation is twofold. I really do do project management. We’re based out of Denver, but we have our six other locations around the United States. And what happens with me is I get thrown at projects. It’s not very traditional, right now. I do have a traditional one going on. We have a brand new warehouse in Nashville. It is from the ground up.

My experience prior to this was with Sam’s Club in the home Office of Wal-Mart, and actual project management. I am more of a firefighter here. That’s what I tell people. People will ask, your special projects manager, what does that mean? And I say, “Well actually, I’m just Chris Anderson’s firefighter”, who’s the vice president of operations. He never calls and says, “Well, things are terrific in Chicago. You know, would you like to go for a couple of weeks?” It’s always: “We have a hospital in Albuquerque and they’re going to donate everything to us. And can you leave tomorrow morning?”

And so it’s split. I do do project management at the other locations and here locally. And then locally in Denver, I handle procurement. We are in hospitals from Cheyenne down to Albuquerque, and we have trucks that run every day doing pickups and donations.

International Projects

WENDY GROUNDS: Tell us about some of the projects that you’ve been involved with.

DAVE MADDUX:  For International, I mean, we’ve been involved, Project C.U.R.E. has been involved in the emergency aspect of what we do, putting together cargo containers for Ukraine. Any time there’s an emergency, I mean in the last year or two, if you look at earthquakes in Haiti, hurricanes in Haiti, typhoons in Malawi, the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, what’s going on in Afghanistan right now. Obviously, what’s going on in Israel.

People will reach out to us and our projects change from what they normally are, which is assessment and container and then doing a follow up to immediate relief. And COVID flipped us a little bit too. That took us out of our normal way of doing things because we had not been ever doing anything domestically outside of Puerto Rico, which technically is domestically.

And when COVID hit, we found a lot of small clinics, small hospitals that could not buy at the same quantity that these giant ones could. And so we were partnering with angel flights, smaller airplanes, and supplying clinics in 20 different states from seven different warehouses with PPE and anything they needed because they couldn’t get anything at the time.

That’s the bulk of what happens there. I mean, in some of the projects that get thrown at me are, I mean, we’ve moved three warehouses in the last five years. It’s a good and harrowing thing. And I think one of the challenges for us, too, is unlike, say, working for the Home Office, Sam’s Club, I am not working with anybody paid, everybody is a volunteer.

We do this with 30 paid staffers and about 15,000 volunteers a year. And so, like this upcoming move in Nashville, I have a single operations director. I’m the project manager for the move to the warehouse, 55,000 square foot warehouse. And everybody else is going to be a volunteer.

Switching Between Strategic and Urgent

BILL YATES:   Okay. Before we get into the team makeup, because you got some great perspective on that, I want to go back and ask a little bit about what would be a big challenge to me as a project manager. It sounds like you have projects that are strategic and follow a plan and then you have urgent projects that just pop up, and that’s where the firefighter hat comes on.

The VP says, “Hey, this hospital is shutting down. They’re going to donate a lot of equipment to us, go check it out, move it from point A to point B.”  How do you manage flipping the switch between strategic and urgent? Because I know our project managers deal with that. We’ve got strategic projects that we’re managing. They’re going to take a long period of time and then we’ve got urgent things that pop up because you can’t really say no. So how do you manage those?

DAVE MADDUX:   No, I can’t say no. I think rally the troops. I mean, and we do this, one of the things we haven’t talked about is we do this for 3% overhead, 3% overhead. So there is not a budget for High Presbyterian in Albuquerque is going to donate 120 ICU beds. There is no we’re going to go hire 20 people and throw this whole thing together.

It is exactly that. In the urgent situations, I tend to be in a city where we already have a warehouse or a collection center, and I’m able to pull some volunteers and just line it up like you would a regular project. Issue with that being, is unlike a regular project where people are working 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, I might get a couple of people, 16 hours here, 12 hours here.

I think we do a good job partnering with bigger corporations as well. I mean, we’ve had a lot of benevolent sponsors over the years from Wal-Mart who helps us out with a lot of our trucking, American Furniture warehouse has been a champion for us for many, many years.

Same thing with helping out with trucking, helping out with space, temporary warehouse space where we needed it. It’s a different situation. I mean, around here we have a phrase that nobody is coming, and that means it’s on you. And the flip side of that, the flip side of that is I’m always challenged by my boss not to feel like I’m the only one who can do this.

You really end up walking a balancing act there between nobody is coming, and I’m the only one who can do this, and being able to recruit extra people to help you out. We just get as creative as we can.

With what’s going on with Nashville, we are reaching out to Army veterans organizations to help us put up racking. I mean, we are moving everything out of our warehouse. We’re taking racking, we’re taking offices, we’re taking a massive amount of medical supplies and equipment and everything from portable X-ray machines and ultrasounds down to syringes and Band-Aids. And it is just mobilizing everybody we can find. It’s a challenge and I love it.

International Teams

WENDY GROUNDS:  Talk to us a bit more about your team. So when you go into a place that’s donated equipment, do you have to find people there who are going to help you load up the equipment or do you take people in? And then when you maybe take the equipment over internationally, do you have teams in those countries or do you take volunteers over with you?

DAVE MADDUX:   Well, we’re pretty good with our consignees on the other end. I mean, we’ve been doing this for a long, long time. Project C.U.R.E. shipped more than $1,000,000,000 worth of medical supplies in our history, and we’re ramping up. I mean, when I started eight years ago, a very good year would be about 130 Conexes, 40 foot shipping containers.

And now we’re 220 and up. And on the other end we have connections and relationships, mostly with ministries of health, CEOs of hospital groups and organizations over there. So we don’t need a whole lot of volunteers on the other end. We do some post shipment follow ups just to assess what works and what doesn’t. And we’re able to course correct as we need to.

And we’ve found out of need over the years. There’s some things that we’ve shipped that just haven’t been well used or haven’t been able to be supported on that end. One of the parts that we do in the assessment is to figure out what they’re able to handle on their own. So do you have a biomedical technician? Do you have money to be able to pay them?

Can they do installs? Can they do updates? Some donations which can’t be maintained really are not what we’re looking for on that end. I mean, shipping a printer is great if you’re in in America and you can go down to Costco and get yourself more ink or whatever you need, but shipping it to the middle of nowhere in Ethiopia where they can’t do that doesn’t help.

And the same thing goes with all the medical supplies. X-ray is a perfect example. I mean, we occasionally get donated older units that take film and chemicals. It’s terrific if you have access to that. Even in the worst clinics around the world, they are using digital. And so we need to get them something that has use for a long time, and that’s what we work on.

Team Highlights and Lowlights

BILL YATES:  Regarding your teams, tell us some of the victories, maybe some of the highlights and then some of the surprises or lowlights you’ve had with teams. I love this, this mantra of nobody is coming. Maybe you’ve had that experience happen before, or maybe you’ve had more people show up than you expected. Then you’re like, okay, what do I do with them all?

DAVE MADDUX:   Well, part of working in nonprofit, especially with the people on staff, and there’s only 30 of us, is everybody wants to be here. And people think I’m crazy when I say I love all my coworkers. We never have drama. We have a real good sense of alignment for what our purpose is. And so on a local level or at a single project level, if I put out the call to all of my teammates and say, I need four people to come help me with this.

What happens is nine people show up, you know, it’s exactly the opposite, which is terrific! Outside of that, I mean, the ‘nobody is coming’ thing. We have to manage where we can. And we’ve got some challenges and we’ve got some hurdles that we’ve really overcome in various places because some of our warehouse space is not downtown what we call our Philadelphia warehouse is located about 45 miles inland in about 40,000 people.

And so whereas in Denver, I’m drawing from, you know, two and a half million people to be able to get volunteers and volunteer groups. In the Pennsylvania warehouse, it’s a little bit more of a challenge. And our operations directors, we have one in every single location, are key to that in terms of building up those relationships and ensuring a good experience, I think makes the big piece of what happens.

Because, I mean, we track everything. We’re really fastidious about tracking. Why do you show up? Why do you come back? And number one is word of mouth, and they have a positive experience. And that just helps us to go from 5000 volunteers a year, 15 years ago to what we have now. I mean, last year we had 145,000 volunteer hours by our volunteers.

That’s where all the work happens.

Selling the “Why” behind C.U.R.E

BILL YATES:  When you’re working with those volunteer teams, how do you get across the message to them, the purpose, and help them know the effort that they’re doing is going to change a life or help someone? How do you sell the “Why” behind C.U.R.E?

DAVE MADDUX:    The Why behind it, I think ends up being easy. I mean, at the end of the day, our process, when things go in, they go through a couple of different layers of sorting so we can get down to exactly what we want. I mean, we want a box to have exactly what it’s supposed to have. That’s what the assessments do.

When we come back from an assessment, we’re able to say, okay, they need 10cc syringes and they need heart catheters or, you know, they need Ambu bags. And we’re able to put together that assessment list and come back and say, okay, for the number of patients they see a year, here’s what they’ll need. And so for the people here in the warehouse, I mean, at the end of a shift, especially if it’s just a one time group that just is coming in as team building, we’re able to emphasize to them that, you know, every single thing you put your hand on today will change things.

Every single thing. And in the before and after, in a lot of things we do are pretty amazing. I mean, every place we go into, we tend to lower infant mortality rates. We’re able to offer better care in the places we go into. I think people in America, in a lot of what we would consider first world countries, lose track of the fact that we live in a ton of abundance.

And all it takes when you do an assessment is to walk into a birthing clinic and see someone on a wooden box giving birth with their legs up over two nurses aids as stirrups because they don’t have stirrups, for you to realize the impact that a simple exam table can have. And so when we talk with volunteers before and after, we’re able to say, look, some of these things are going into clinics where they will have none of this, and it’s just going to change lives.

I’m not really prone to open emotion in public settings, and my very first assessment was in Ethiopia about six years ago, and I walked into a birthing clinic that was exactly like I just described. And I, after about 5 minutes in, I said “Excuse me; I need to go take a small break”. And I walked out the back of the building and cried.

I was horrified by the lack of everything they had. And it just makes you realize the abundance we have here. I mean, exam tables, bandages, syringes, things that are just left overs in a lot of hospitals that would have ended up in a landfill, now go someplace and change lives. I’m lucky. I’m lucky to be able to do this.

Establishing Long-Term Volunteer Loyalty

WENDY GROUNDS:  I can imagine that would be the thing that would build more long term commitment with your volunteers. I mean, I think of what we’ve done as a company. We’ve done team building, volunteer things. But for something that is such an important mission to relay that to the volunteers, I can imagine you have a lot that keep coming back and that have a loyalty to you.

DAVE MADDUX:  We are fortunate that way. We are fortunate that way. And again, the one-off groups, they get a lot done for us. But the benefit of that a lot of times is, Deloitte accounting is a perfect example. They have brought in these massive numbers of people as to all of our warehouses. We’ve had 200 people show up to do an event in our Tempe, Arizona warehouse.

But I think the big benefit of that is there’s a percentage, 1 or 2% that will go, “Wow, I love this and I want to start coming back every Monday, or Wednesday, or Friday, or Saturday and helping out”. And that’s where we build our regulars from. I mean, our groups that come in are fantastic and we couldn’t do what we do without them.

But our regulars are the core of what goes on. I always tell my drivers here locally, a lot of my regulars here locally, I’m on the road 200 days a year. There’s Tom Petty concert where the whole audience sang his song and at the end of it he went, “Y’all are going to put me out of a job!”

And that’s what I tell my regulars. I mean, they do what we do without me being in-house so well, my job security might be at risk. Yeah.

Sponsor Relationships

WENDY GROUNDS:   The other thing is, you’ve talked about the products that have been donated. So you have relationships with sponsors that you have to nurture. So tell us a little bit more about those relationships.

DAVE MADDUX: Those relationships are key. I think the relationships we have with the bigger sponsors, and we are in everybody’s ear. Stryker and Hill Ram are sort of the Ford and Chevy of the bigger equipment that you get for hospital equipment. They are monetary sponsors, but beyond that, they’re also really good with what would be basically reverse logistics in terms of getting us things when they’re coming out of service.

There’s a real tendency in health care in America that if you are going to charge someone the amount of money you charge them to have them overnight in a hospital that you want all the best equipment. And so a lot of equipment that gets rotated out of service while it is old or used still has a decade or more of life left in it.

We have a national procurement team who works out of Houston who is amazing with that, and it’s good to see the progress because everybody from Cardinal Health to Medline to all the real big players around the country are aware of us and help get back things that in previous years would have maybe just gone into the landfill. One of my very first years, ten years ago as a volunteer, we were going to do some medical pickups and they had roll offs that they were taking ICU beds and just taking them at the scrapyard because they didn’t have use for them there.

And there wasn’t really any cost, any way they wanted to spend any money to get it back to where they were, to be able to reuse it. So they were taking them to the scrapyard and we put the kibosh on that. We have stopped that in a lot of cases in-house for like medical consumables, like what you think of as Band-Aids, catheters, syringes, needles, all that sort of thing.

We do get a lot of medical consumables, some of it brand new, a lot of it we don’t reuse medical consumables, but a lot of it the situation is, for instance, you open a sterile surgical kit in a hospital for your surgery, you rip it open. Everything is individually sterilized and packaged and they might use 12, 13 items out of that.

And then in previous before Project C.U.R.E., the other 87 items would go in the dumpster. We have collection bins and sites with every major hospital organization everywhere we are. And that’s where we get the bulk of our medical consumables from hospitals and hospital supply companies.

Spreading the Word

BILL YATES:   That’s so good. I’m thinking of a situation you know, you mentioned many times you guys are responding to earthquakes or a typhoon or some kind of natural disaster or could it be a war, so suddenly you see an opportunity and you’re thinking, okay, here’s my supply list. Based on what’s just happened in Haiti, this is what we need.

And you’re looking at what you have an inventory and maybe you got 70% of it. But for that 30% that you’re like, okay, we need to go out and find that. How do you engage the partners to say, hey, here’s what we need. We’re going to take a shipment to Haiti? Do you have the following? How do you guys do that?

DAVE MADDUX:  It’s begging. Is it? That’s. That’s not really that. Not really. But I think. I think there’s a real key component to what we do in that we are relationship focused, which I think is critical. I mean, over the years as a project manager, I’ve read all of the books you’re supposed to read and you know, Stephen Covey and all that, and there’s a lot of good things in there.

But I think going back to like power of positive thinking is there hasn’t been a whole lot of new ideas per se. I mean, I think there are some good ones. And Measuring What Matters by John Doerr is a great project manager book, you know, for setting goals and how to achieve them and things like that.

But ultimately I think it comes down to the individual relationships in that when I am in deep trouble, you know, here in Denver, we have everything that can go out and we have certain high priority items that we don’t see a lot of of sterilizers, anesthesia machines, ultrasounds, operating room tables are just not things that regularly get donated, where we might get 800 ICU beds a year. And if we have a container that’s being held up by one specific thing, I am able to call people and go, “Hey, look, we are in trouble. And, you know, you know what’s holding us up from going to Ukraine. We need an operating room table”, and people will come through for us.

You know, the more we’re able to get them into the warehouse and see what we do, or share our stories with them, the more they’re onboard for us. And some of the things like Classy, the web based platform for nonprofits giving us their People’s Choice Award in 2022, it got our word out a little wider.

I mean, we’ve been around a long time. A lot of people knows. A lot of people still don’t. But I think when things like that are out there and they’re able to see the pictures of the before and the after of what we do, it makes it a lot easier to get people on board.

WENDY GROUNDS:   Well, I hope with this podcast we were able to get the word out a little bit more, too.

DAVE MADDUX:  I hope so as well.

Assessing the Project Scope

WENDY GROUNDS:   Definitely. So when you are going into a country, how do you assess the scope of a project, what the need is? Do you go personally and do that? What criteria do you use?

DAVE MADDUX:  I have gone personally. We have a logistics and an assessment team that gets with the partners ahead of time. And so one of the things that makes us a little unique is we don’t advertise per se. I mean, we wait for an invitation. We have never pushed our way into a situation and we’ve been around long enough that we’re well known enough that people can say, “You need to go to Project C.U.R.E. for this.”

Our assessment team works on the front end before anybody goes over and figures out sites we’re going to see, what we’re trying to achieve, I mean, it lays out the project in terms of what we’re trying to achieve. And the range can be pretty fantastic. I mean, it can be from we want to take a simple level one clinic that has basic examinations and we want to be able to move it up to where they have maternity services. And that range can go from there to, we’re dealing with a hospital that deals with 30,000 people a year and we’re trying to update their imaging and their X-ray, and, you know, they want to expand services into different areas like endoscopy and things like that.

And so we’re able to figure that out. I have gone on a number of assessments and it’s always invigorating and equal times shocking because you just think I’ll never see anything as bad as what that was. And then you go into certain areas and people are making do where they can.

The one common factor I’ve seen in every country I’ve ever been has been the people, the people that are there, the nurses, the doctors, the hospital administrators are absolutely laser focused on trying to do the best they can for their communities. And so where we’re able to dovetail with them and provide support in any way always is a good thing.

And we’re grateful. We’re lucky to be able to do it.

Meeting the Customer’s Needs

BILL YATES:   Dave, There’s so many practical takeaways to me for project managers and what you’ve just shared, this idea of an assessment team. Now with Project C.U.R.E., the stakes are so much higher and the purpose is so much higher than, for instance, some of the boring projects I used to work on for accounting and financial packages for utilities, you know. But the idea of an assessment team going in, meeting with the end user, the customer and having eyes on the site, you know, there are many companies that are better at this.

When they’re assessing a need they want to make sure they are at the location with the users. They’re going to actually be using whatever that solution is, that service. So that’s a key. Knowing what their goals are, you know, listening to the customers, asking a lot of questions. And then I think a key that you’ve expressed a couple of times, knowing the capabilities, you know, so many times I as the project manager, I’ve got an idea what I think the customer needs.

I’ve got this shiny piece of equipment sitting in my warehouse in Denver, and I know it’s going to be perfect, right? But then you show up and you’re like, They won’t be able to use it. You know, this is not applicable. I need to just keep my shiny thing on the shelf and give them what they can use and what they can support and what’s going to meet their needs.

DAVE MADDUX:   I think there’s a real benefit to that. And when we load containers, we do not load containers like American trucks. I mean, our containers are loaded like a game of Tetris. We don’t put a pallet on. We do not we don’t put a pallet on because at the end of the day, I mean, we might have had 40 pallets worth of items to be able to load onto a container.

Imagine the space that 40 pallets stacked up, you know, takes up and then in your head, imagine how many syringes, catheters, everything, Ambu bags, equipment, all kinds of things, incubators, anything that could fit into that space. So when we load a container, we put in like exam tables, and then we build boxes to the ceiling and then we put in some stretchers and gurneys and we build boxes to the ceiling, and then we put in mattresses and we build boxes to the ceiling.

On the other end, it must be horrific having to sort it all out, but it’s all rather well labeled. And you know that certain product codes, you know, the 305 is surgical gloves, and we’ve got a great system for that. But to your point, very much so. The big shiny item isn’t what we’re trying to get them. We’re trying to get them things that can really make a difference and can really change things.

And one of the things that’s helped us with our post-delivery assessments, when we go back in and evaluate what we shipped over the years, one of the course corrections we’ve made is a perfect example is x-ray units that were for entire rooms, and we went time after time after time and realized they requested them. We had them, but they didn’t have anybody who could install them, anybody who could maintain them, anybody who could test them.

And we’d come back six months after we deliver a container and there’d be an x-ray unit sitting in the closet that they hadn’t been able to do. So we course corrected and we changed to portable x-rays and we changed to C-arms, things that were more self-contained units. And we’ve done that with a number of things.

There also can be, like you were saying, big shiny items. There can be things that are just so much above the level of what a single hospital might be able to do, even in significant hospitals, hospitals that do a lot already that we just have to we do we have to focus on where can we do the most good. And sometimes the most good is Band-Aids. Sometimes the most good is syringes.

Technical Support for Equipment

WENDY GROUNDS:  Just a question I’m asking because I’m interested. I worked as an X-ray tech for 12 years in South Africa, and I know our equipment often broke down. How do you provide technical support for something like that? Like once you give them the equipment, do they have to find technical help?

DAVE MADDUX:   It depends. We partner with a lot of different groups here to make sure that what we’re giving them has the most value and has the most life left in it. We’ve partnered with groups that work with anesthesia machines and ultrasounds and X-ray machines, and we’re able to supply everything that goes with them. We’ve gotten better. I mean, we’ve improved the idea that you can’t get bigger and better at the same time is a myth I think in our case. We have gotten bigger and we have gotten better. I think in years past we might have had issues where we didn’t have the right cords, the right cables, the right probes and things like that. And we’ve gotten really fine-tuned on what we do to be able to do that in-country. It’s a little bit rougher situation.

The assessment one of the questions on the assessment is very much are there biomedical technicians who can repair this? You know, are there are there people in your hospital that can repair it or their local places you can reach out to be able to find a way to get the equipment working? I mean, we aim for having everything we ship to have at least a decade of life in it.

So that’s what we aim for. I mean, we can provide some partnership in terms of being able to hopefully get them recommendations or maybe in-country suppliers where we can. But for the most part, when we ship a container, we try to give them the best that we can and then support them on the back end if they need it.

BILL YATES:   You know, we’re looking at MacGyver here. He’s retired Navy nuclear before he got into this and he just told us he travels 200 days out of the year. I think, Wendy, I think Dave is on the road repairing.

WENDY GROUNDS: Probably just puts it together when he gets there.

BILL YATES:  Exactly. He’s got some duct tape and chicken wire and some pliers.

DAVE MADDUX:   I’ve had to Macgyver a number of things and usually they’re pretty good means to pretty good ends.

Dave’s Lessons Learned on Projects

WENDY GROUNDS:  What is personally been one of your biggest lessons learned as a leader working with Project C.U.R.E.?

DAVE MADDUX:   I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that there’s a giant difference between agreement and alignment. You know, we can all agree on what our end goal is, but I think if we’re not all aligned in the same goal, the results aren’t nearly the same. I think too, like we talked about earlier. I mean, I get along with everybody I work with.

It’s a dream job for that. Everybody wants to be here and everybody is really focused on the end. But I think what I’ve learned is whatever your Myers-Briggs letters are, it doesn’t really matter. You know, ultimately at the end, I have friends in corporate offices where it’s like, “Oh we’re going to put all the people in this category up in this corner. They’ll work better together that way.” And it’s not that way here.

I think what I’ve learned is no matter what the person’s background is, everybody has something that can advance what we do. It’s been remarkable that way. I mean, our backgrounds are pretty radical, what everybody comes in here having done before and we’re all very much aligned on. It’s our slogan, you know, bringing health and hope to the world.

But it’s very much that it’s people are focused on it. They see the before, they see the after. And I think when you can get the whole team without regard to this is what my viewpoint is or this is what I have a preconceived notion of, I think it’s an amazing thing.

One of the things I do love about what we do is everybody has each other’s backs, even when you fiercely disagree. So once we’ve had the argument and I’ve said, “Well, this is the way I think it should be”, and somebody else says, “Nope, this is how we’re going to do it”. I and other people on the team are able to flip the switch and go, “You know what your way is, the way we’re going to do it, I’m behind you. How can I help?” And it gets dropped. There’s not a ton of there’s a ton of pride, but not a lot of ego.

“What I wish I had Known”

BILL YATES:   Yeah, that’s so healthy. Dave. What do you wish you had known before taking this position with Project C.U.R.E.?

DAVE MADDUX:  I think I would have been better suited to having a logistics background. I’ve been forced to know more about that. One of our vice presidents prior to this, I mean, 15, 16 years ago, there were three people on staff in Denver total. Now we have philanthropy and we have social media and we have communications and operations and things like that.

But 15, 16 years ago there was the CEO and there was a crusty old Bostonian named George Roberge, who did all of our logistics. And there was someone who answered the phones. So as that has filtered down, I think we’ve all had to take on different roles as we’ve expanded and gotten bigger. And I think had I had a better knowledge of logistics going into this, I’d have been in better shape.

You know, I really didn’t know what I was going to do when I came in. They said, “We’re looking for someone who will travel and we’re looking to someone who can handle big projects and deal with local procurement”. And when I started, the only reason I even found Project C.U.R.E. was at the time I was traveling 300 days a year for Sam’s Club and I was home six days a month.

And so I would be home the first couple of days I would do the ‘Honey Do’ list and watch a few movies and I would get bored and I have a friend and she still works here who dealt with Latin America and Mexico, and she said, You should come volunteer a couple of days a month. You know, you’re bored, you’re sitting at home, come volunteer a couple of days a month.

After a couple of years that they came to me and said, We’re looking for this out of our next project manager here. You’ll travel 100 days a year, which hasn’t been true, but I’m grateful for the 200 I do travel.

Find Out More

WENDY GROUNDS:   So the important question is if our listeners want to find out more, they want to talk to you, or if they want to find out more about Project C.U.R.E. and how they can get involved, where should they go?

DAVE MADDUX: They should go www.projectcure.org  That’s our web site. That’ll lay out everything we do that will lay out our team, it’ll lay out our locations, it’ll explain to everyone the work we’re doing, not only in our regular work, but like helping out with the war in Ukraine and things like that. And you can also go on YouTube. And if you type in Project Cure classy or just type in Project Cure Channel, you’ll come on to videos that explain our origins and what we’re doing now.

BILL YATES:  Dave this has been fantastic. I get the sense from you this is an incredibly healthy team. Sounds like the healthiest team you’ve ever been a part of throughout your career and you’ve had a very unique career. I see the draw of a common purpose of changing people’s lives and taking things that are available, that are headed to the dump, that are now going to be used to change or even save someone’s life.

There’s such a great mission there. Thank you for the lessons learned that you’ve shared as a project manager. You’ve seen a lot of good and you’ve helped us communicate that to our listeners. I appreciate that.

DAVE MADDUX:   Thank you very much for having me. Like I said before, I’m a lucky guy. I mean, there are very few people at my age who go, “This is the last job I will ever have”. And Project C.U.R.E. is the last job I’ll ever have.


WENDY GROUNDS:   That’s it for us here on Manage this. Thank you so much for joining us today. You can visit us at Velocity WSJ.com, where you can subscribe to this podcast and see a complete transcript of the show. And we will also have some links to Project C.U.R.E. and to their YouTube channel in the transcript.

You’ve also earned free PDUs by listening to this podcast. Go to Velociteach.com and choose Manage This podcast from the top of the page. Click the button that says Claim PDUs and click through those steps. Until next time, Keep Calm and Manage This.


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