In the Arena with Dr. Doug Jackson
Dr. Douglas Jackson serves as the President/CEO of Project C.U.R.E. Each week Project C.U.R.E. delivers approximately four semi-truck loads of donated medical supplies and equipment to desperately needy people worldwide. Since 1987, Project C.U.R.E. has delivered equipment and supplies to hospitals and clinics in over 135 countries.
You have your J.D. as well as a Ph.D. in Business. You’ve opened your own firm, lectured extensively both nationally and abroad, and even served as Provost for Colorado Christian University. How did you find your way to Project C.U.R.E.?
Well, my family started Project C.U.R.E. back in 1987. My dad had moved to Denver and was very successful in real estate – a couple of projects west of Denver called Winter Park and Vail. He made a lot of money and figured out that you can be rich and not happy. He and my mom started a foundation to give their money away. He started doing economic consulting around the world, first with Mugabe and then later with President Sarney. When he was in Brazil, his interpreter took him to a medical clinic in a favela outside of Rio, and it had nothing in it. That tore my dad’s heart out. When he came back to Denver he told a buddy the story. It turns out that he owned a medical wholesale company and gave my dad a garage full of medical supplies. My dad paid to ship it all to the clinic in Brazil. That was how this whole thing got started.
So my trajectory. I went to law school early, and I passed the bar at 23. I clerked for a judge and decided that I didn’t want it as a career. I ended up as in-house counsel for a big manufacturing company and started doing merger and acquisition work; which got me interested in finance. That’s why I went back and did a Ph.D. I thought I would go into hedge funds or private equity and make money just like my father. But my dad pulled me aside and said you’re not even 29, you have your J.D. and Ph.D. and no student loans, you really should give back. Instead of hedge funds, I went into academics and started teaching college in San Diego. A few years later my dad said he could really use some help with Project C.U.R.E., at the time it had six months of funding. I figured I would do a short run and move back east. That was 1997. I’ve been here ever since.
Can you tell us about Project C.U.R.E.’s recent efforts with the war in Ukraine?
We started working in Ukraine in 1994. We have put over $20 million of relief into Ukraine and that was before the war. When the war happened, we just got really busy trying to take care of our friends and colleagues over there. We’ve done eight or nine big airlifts now using cargo planes and passenger aircraft. We’ve done a couple of them with Richard Branson’s team. We’ve done some Canada Air, United, and Lufthansa. We’re going to continue this until they don’t need us anymore, which will probably be decades in the future.
How did the COVID pandemic shift your business model?
Everything we had done up until March 2020 was international. When COVID started, and President Trump closed the airports, I was in Nashville. I had teams in the Ivory Coast, I had folks in Kenya and in South America. Our first responsibility was getting everybody home. We thought it was going to be 14 days, we were going to flatten the curve, and get back to business as usual.
I got home on a Friday. Saturday my brother, who is the Fire Chief for West Metro, called asking to come by and get some PPE because they had run out. I said you can’t run out, you’re the fire department. The next call we got was from one of our volunteers down at a local hospital. She said they were gowning up in trash bags because they didn’t have PPE. We were getting calls from Pennsylvania, Nashville, Houston, and Chicago. At about that same time I was on a Colorado Concern call with former Senator Cory Gardner and after the call, Mike Kopp followed up suggesting we do a PPE drive. This got really big, really fast. Soon we were talking to the Denver Broncos and they offered to host it at Empower Field. They put out the call on NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox News, and local channels.
When the day came I was standing with Mike, Roger, and Jamie, we were waiting and I’m thinking what happens if nobody shows up? Well, at about quarter to noon the cars started to roll in. It was people who owned the autobody shops and they had N-95 masks because they use them to paint cars. It was people who worked in construction and carpentry. One woman pulled up with a whole SUV full of gloves because she ran a lab at Metropolitan State University. There was an elderly couple who should have stayed home but felt compelled to bring in their Lysol wipes. Everyone wanted to do their part. We filled several of our big trucks, packed up 27 pallets worth of goods, and got it to local hospitals. It worked so well we did it in Colorado Springs the next weekend. Then we took it to Chicago, we called the Bulls and the Bears and the Blackhawks. We worked with the Astros in Houston, with the Cardinals in Phoenix, with the Titans in Nashville. We even started buying PPE out of India and getting that out. It was our first foray and it was a big one.
Finally, from your unique vantage point, what are the biggest opportunities you see for Colorado?
We were given such an incredible place to live. There’s just a different culture here. The people are great. There are places where you go where you try to strike up a conversation and it’s almost impossible. Here, we all seem to be friends. Even if you don’t know these people. We seem to be friends. That’s going to keep attracting people here.
We’re also in the middle of the country so for technology companies, that’s only one bounce to get coast to coast. We have a strong military from Buckley all the way down Cheyenne Mountain. It’s a significant factor in what makes Colorado a great place to be. There is a whole lot of opportunity here.
Rapid Fire Round:
Who inspires you? My father
What is your favorite place in Colorado? My family home in Evergreen
What are you reading? Partnering: Forge the Deep Connections That Make Great Things Happen by Jean Oelwang
What’s your favorite restaurant? Oh, boy. It just depends on the night week. We’re enjoying Fifth String, Sushi Den, La Loma, The Bindary, anything Troy Guard does, and I’m excited to see what Dana Rodriguez does with Casa Bonita.