Although his tenure with the World Federation of Hemophilia (WFH) was brief, former CEO and executive director John E. Bournas has left a lasting impact on the organization and the community as a whole.
Since joining the organization in 2012, Bournas has led the WFH with a unique vision, on the one hand pushing industry partners to contribute more towards the WFH vision and on the other enabling the WFH and its members to reach out to the wider community and help the millions of people that still are undiagnosed and that go without treatment.
For Bournas it was always about the patient. “What initially drew me to the organization was clearly its capacity building and its humanitarian focus. I had always, for a very long period of my professional career, wanted to give back and to work in a patient-based organization; so when the opportunity arose I just decided to take it and be able to lend the professional skills I had developed along my career to leverage that to the benefit of patients.”
When Bournas joined the WFH in 2012 he found an organization that was meeting its mandate and doing so in an effective manner but there was room for improvement. “I think successful organizations are based on good communication, innovation and a lot of teamwork, so that’s what I attempted to do and hopefully I have been able to instill these values in the organization so that it may have that type of mentality going forward.”
Working in an organization that has access to essential medicines around the world at the forefront of its core values was a strong driver for him. Born in the developing world, Bournas spent a good amount of his life travelling and living around the world. He has borne witness to the imbalance in care that exists between developed and developing nations.
Coming to Fruition
When pressed to name one accomplishment that stands out for him, Bournas did not hesitate in mentioning the fruition of the recent humanitarian aid projects that were announced at the WFH 2014 World Congress and that were delivered through strong partnerships. Those projects are Project Recovery, the initiative between the WFH, the Canadian Hemophilia Society, Canadian Blood Services, and Biotest to take unused blood product and turn it into life-saving factor; Project Wish, the program developed by the Italian Centro Nazionale del Sangue that sees donated blood go directly to where it is needed most, plus the announcement of several major commitments by corporate partners that could see over 500 million IUs of factor go into the Humanitarian Aid Program.
“I think if 20 years from now a mother in a developing world has children with hemophilia and they are able to hold them, embrace them, and to think that 20 years prior there was a group of people in Montréal that decided to work on this, decided to make this project a reality so those children could have the medications they need, I think I would be happy with that,” said Bournas. “That gives me a lot of personal satisfaction and the reassurance that the time I have worked here with this group of people has been truly meaningful.”
His biggest regret as CEO of the WFH comes in not being able to get out of the office more and meet the people that make up the global community of the WFH. Bournas looks back on the times when he was able to visit a national member organization with affection and a strong sense of the reality of the conditions those with bleeding disorders must face on a daily basis. “It really had an impact on me as a person; and as a professional it just kind of reaffirmed the fact that if more treatment is extended to people, they can lead normal lives.”
Although he leaves the WFH, in his nearly three-year tenure as executive director and CEO, Bournas has strengthened the core of the organization and grown its ability to meet the vision of treatment for all, helped bring about the WFH’s Research Program, increased the donations to the Humanitarian Aid Program ten-fold, pushed for a greater focus on youth and women with bleeding disorders and delivered a balanced budget in 2013, bringing the WFH to its first ever $5 million revenue milestone in one annual year.
A Final Thought
All great accomplishments to leave behind with a head held high.
“I am very grateful for the opportunity that has been given to me. I am very thankful for the friendships that I have established. I would like to keep reciprocating the kindness that has been shown to me by many people with inherited bleeding disorders around the world. I am thankful for all the dreams they have shared with me, the hopes, and their wishes for improved living conditions for themselves, their family members. I will still be working in the field of drug shortages, I won’t be that far, and I will still have the patient view and the patient perspective in mind. The advocacy will continue.”