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Meet Claire Lachance, ReSurge’s new President and CEO

Claire-Lachance

ReSurge is thrilled to introduce you to our new President and CEO, Claire Lachance. Claire is a transformative leader dedicated to designing, building, and managing high-performing organizations for social impact. We sat down with Claire to ask her a few questions – some about her vision for the organization and some just for fun. We hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as we have!

What would you like our community to know about the background and experience that you’re bringing to ReSurge?

I’d like to think that I bring a unique perspective to the organization. From the very start of my career, I have been passionate about management and leadership. This began in my early jobs at Met Life and Pacific Bell and continued as I pursued my MBA at Harvard. After I completed my graduate degree, I wanted to apply the rigor and best practices that I’d learned to the nonprofit sector. I was able to do that as a consultant, helping foundations, nonprofit organizations, and public sector entities with strategic planning, capacity-building, evaluation, financial sustainability, and good governance. I get excited about merging the effective operating models of the corporate environment with the mission-driven passion and service-oriented objectives of the nonprofit world. I’m committed to staying on the leading edge of nonprofit excellence.

As a CEO, one of my top priorities is ensuring that an organization’s structure is designed to achieve maximum impact. At ReSurge, we have a very ambitious goal of doubling the number of patients served in our first 50 years by 2030. So, I am spending a lot time considering how we can optimize the organization itself to achieve that goal.

I’m also very passionate about building win-win-win collaborations to advance collective impact. (Yes, that’s three “wins”—each collaborator and the community being served). So it’s not just designing the organization itself, but constructing the partnerships and broader networks that can further advance our mission.

What are some of your proudest career accomplishments?

I am very proud of having worked as a consultant on the launch of the CORAL initiative (Communities Organizing Resources to Advance Learning) here in Silicon Valley area earlier in my career. An initiative of the James Irvine Foundation, CORAL was a $60 million initiative that provided daily after school literacy programs for the most vulnerable, underserved students in five cities across the state. I had the great fortune to serve as the facilitator of the San Jose program which has served a few hundred thousand students since its launch.  I’m very proud of that work because it truly changed lives. Through the program, elementary and middle school students in San Jose’s most vulnerable neighborhoods had an opportunity to participate in a rigorous—and fun—afterschool program every single school day, supporting the attainment of critical reading and related academic  levels they needed to succeed in high school and to ultimately attend college.

I am also very proud of the work I’ve done with the Institute of Noetic Sciences, where I served as CEO for the past six years. In addition to repositioning the 50-year-old organization for increased mission impact, I led the design and launch of the Noetic Leadership Initiative, which helps to develop leaders in what might seem a less traditional way – by cultivating their inner wisdom and supporting their ability to lead from a palpable sense of interconnection with other human beings, nature, and the cosmos.

What drew you to ReSurge?

In addition to my desire to work for a direct-service, international organization, I was drawn to ReSurge, specifically, because of my own experience with childhood surgery. I was legally blind for 10 years of my life due to congenital cataracts. The fact that I was able to have surgery midway through high school — to be able to see well in school, drive, play sports, travel independently — was life changing for me.

And that wasn’t the only experience I had with life-altering surgery. Six years ago, I had a fall in my home state of Maine and ended up breaking my left shoulder in three places. I was so fortunate to be able to access excellent emergency surgical care. In fact, the on-call doctor just happened to be one of the leading orthopedic surgeons in New England! If I hadn’t had the surgery, I would be disabled on one side of my body. Because of the exceptional care I received, I am 99% recovered and no one would ever know this injury had ever happened to me.

These experiences showed me what an enormous gift it is to have ready access to surgical care. But so many people in the world don’t have this kind of access. Without any effort on my part, I received care from a world-class orthopedic surgeon. Meanwhile, there is a global shortfall of more than 5 million reconstructive surgical procedures every year. Without access to reconstructive surgical care, people often can’t go to school or find work. They fall into poverty or worse. That’s truly what drew me to ReSurge. This incredible team of people have created and implemented innovative programs — and partnered with world-class institutions like Stanford and Johns Hopkins — changing lives all over the globe.

What are you most excited about right now in terms of ReSurge projects and programs?

There is so much untapped opportunity for ReSurge to pursue to expand our services in the countries we currently serve and beyond. We are launching an institutional funding initiative, in collaboration with other NGOs, that will allow us to mobilize more grant resources, leverage our core competencies, reach more people, and expand our collective impact.

I am also really excited to travel to Nepal and Vietnam in November to see ReSurge programs on the ground. These are just the first trips of many to come. I look forward to witnessing ReSurge’s impact in-person and meeting our partners all over the world.

Though you’re still so new to ReSurge, can you share your vision for the organization?

I want to accelerate our progress to ensure more people have timely access to reconstructive surgical care. Everyone within our organization – from Board members and funders to staff and volunteers – is fueling the organization’s momentum. I want to create new ways for our supporters and stakeholders to engage with us and be an active part of pursuing our mission—in other words, I want to create a thriving ReSurge “community.”

What are the biggest challenges facing global reconstructive surgery right now, in your view?

I don’t think enough people recognize the enormous transformative power of reconstructive surgery. There are many challenges competing for attention and funding, but I believe reconstructive surgery needs to be a bigger global health priority. Approximately 30% of the global burden of disease is from surgical conditions. And two thirds of all premature deaths and disabilities are caused by a lack of surgical care. Inadequate access to surgery kills 17 million people each year – that’s more than the total deaths from HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria combined!

While infectious diseases receive 40% of global health funding, non-communicable diseases — including injuries and congenital conditions requiring reconstructive surgery — receive less than 2%. And government funding for global surgical care is rare. I’d certainly like to see that change, but at the moment, our work is heavily dependent on private philanthropy. Without adequate support from local and international governments, some countries rely on private philanthropy for an estimated 55% of all surgical care. Donations from individuals,  corporations, and private and public institutions allow ReSurge — one of the only organizations providing the full scope of reconstructive care— to make a dent in this very large problem. But we must do more.

As we get to know you better, what is one thing people might be surprised to learn about you?

French was actually my first language, as I was born in Maine to proud French-Canadian parents with strong Québecois roots.  I treasure my heritage and call upon my knowledge of French often during international travel.

And as any of my friends will tell you, I’m a big fan of local art and crafts. Anywhere I travel, it’s important to me to support local artisans. Whether in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Cambodia, or India, I’ve sought out local artists selling their wares.I have been lucky enough to travel quite extensively, and it’s allowed me to  learn about cultures through art. Learning about local culture — different wisdom traditions, spirituality, local customs, and the ways these all impact how people live and work — informs my leadership in a very meaningful way.

Certainly, as I travel in my role at ReSurge, I look forward to truly engaging with the local communities. As an international organization, we must have the utmost respect for different cultures, different ways of communicating, and translating that into everything we do.

Thank you for taking the time to get to know Claire! You’ll be hearing more from her soon. In the meantime, let us know if you have any questions you’d like to ask her or anyone on the ReSurge team.