Desmond McCaffery, GSK

Desmond McCaffery is pictured second from left in the front row.

Years in Field:

20 with GSK, the last 15 months working on GSK’s Employee Volunteering Team


My Professional Path

I began my career with SmithKline Beecham (now GSK) as a Drexel Co-op student in 1998. Since then, I’ve had many business-related roles, from contracting to finance to compliance. In October 2018, I landed a short-term development opportunity with GSK’s Employee Volunteering team, where I’ll continue to work until at least April 2020.


My Volunteerism Path

I looked to volunteering as a way to give back and provide a sense of purpose that I was missing. In 2005, I went on a medical volunteering trip to Haiti and came back with a clearer direction of what I wanted to do. I went back to school to pursue an MPH degree because I wanted to learn all about the social determinants of health and how best to design and deliver interventions aimed at improving the health of vulnerable populations.


In 2014, I worked as a GSK PULSE volunteer with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) in Kigali, Rwanda. I worked on their Human Resources for Health (HRH) program with the aim of improving the sustainability of Rwanda’s health workforce (e.g. nurse, midwives, health educators, doctors etc.)


Upon my return, I stayed close to the PULSE team and waited for an opportunity to open. I waited 4 years, and it was well worth it. Now, I have the incredible opportunity of leading the team that delivers the PULSE program contributing to our three-fold change mission – change communities, change yourself, and change GSK! I would have never envisioned myself where I am now, but I wouldn’t ever change the path I took.


My Company’s Approach to Volunteerism

Building healthy communities where we live and work is one way GSK earns trust around the globe. In the U.S., our Community Partnership programs and the engagement of our 15,000 employees is making a difference every day. We look to do more for our communities and engage employees through our innovative partnership with Save the Children, by supporting innovative community health and STEM education programs and organizations, and through our two flagship volunteering programs – PULSE & Orange Days, just to name a few.


Recently, we have seen a push for a more localized approach, meaning that our businesses/countries/support functions have more freedom to choose what works best for them as opposed to new global initiatives being pushed out from the center that may or may not be possible or relevant for all. While we will continue with our two flagship volunteering programs – PULSE & Orange Days – we will also provide support for new programs supported by GSK business.


Key Components for Effective CSR

Initiatives that are open for all employees to contribute (inclusive); able to be personalized (sense of purpose, aligned to community); ensure opportunities to learn and grow (development); included as a standing item in Corporate Executive Team meetings (make it visible, top-down, embedded in culture) and have its impact featured in Annual Reports (make it available.)


Advice for Those Considering Working In Corporate Volunteerism

Be patient, network, and make sure people know what you are interested in doing. It can be a long and winding road with many obstacles along the way but finding the meaningfulness of work will make you happier, healthier, and enable you to perform at your best.