Founding CEO & Chairman of the Board, InSTEDD
Interview with Dr. Rasmussen Chairman of the Board, InSTEDD
The Roddenberry Foundation asks us to imagine a world where:
- New Frontiers are Discovered and Explored;
- All Children are Given a Chance to Thrive;
- Our Environment is Treasured & Preserved;
- Everybody is Given a Chance to Prosper;
- Disease is a Thing of the Past;
- Quality Education is Accessible to All;
- Innovation & Imagination are Valued.
These are the dreams one might expect from the creators of Star Trek. And to help turn those dreams into reality, the Roddenberry Foundation turns to one of their core grantees, Infinitum Humanitarian Systems ('IHS').
IHS leads the Global Disaster Response Team for the Roddenberry Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Star Trek franchise. Working with national, regional and local governments and a global network of partners in more than a dozen countries, IHS helps governments anticipate and respond to natural and industrial disasters. IHS is focused on building infrastructure to address the most fundamental damage created by disasters, conflicts, and population migrations: the loss of clean and safe drinking water. By securing a new clean water supply, a vulnerable population can reduce post-disaster disease risks, and enhance the safety and well-being of whole communities.
These are solutions to pending problems with which the whole world may have to deal. Clear evidence exists to suggest that natural disasters are on an unnatural rise. According to EM-DAT The International Disaster Database, the number of natural disasters has grown dramatically since 1900.
On a practical level, HIS deploys compact, low-power water purification systems that have the capacity to filter thousands of gallons of water per day from almost any local source of ground water. The compact and efficient systems designed by IHS can allow toxic and polluted lakes, rivers, rice paddies, irrigation ditches, or puddles to provide enough clean drinking water for thousands of people each day.
The team at IHS has been involved in more than a dozen major disaster deployments throughout the world, including New Orleans' Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquake, the tsunami in Banda Aceh, Hurricane Sandy in New York, Supertyphoon Haiyan in the Philippines, and the earthquake in Nepal. IHS has led medical and communications teams working in war zones like Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and refugee camps for Sudanese in Kenya and Angolans in Zambia.
IHS runs a lean operation led by Dr. Eric Rasmussen who according to Shane Deichman, "...has the ingenuity of Thomas Edison, the charisma of Steve Jobs, and the compassion of Mother Theresa." From my brief and enjoyable conversation with Dr. Rasmussen, I heard evidence of all three. His storied past includes seven years in nuclear submarines, and dropping out of St. John's College when Los Alamos National Laboratory extended an invitation to work as a Graduate Research Assistant under Walter Goad for the evaluation of tRNA sequences for GenBank, an early DNA / RNA sequence aggregator.
From Los Alamos National Laboratory, Dr. Rasmussen went on to graduate from the School of Medicine at Stanford University as an MD. Dr. Rasmussen then offered his expertise to the U.S. Navy as a physician, soon rising to Fleet Surgeon for the US Navy's Third Fleet. Then his career started to really take off.
Dr. Rasmussen was asked to be the Founding CEO of InSTEDD, a TED Prize awarded to Dr. Larry Brilliant and funded by Google.org, the Rockefeller Foundation, UNICEF, CDC, Pangaea AIDS Foundation and others. He established the team, site, strategy, and funding, and grew the organization from concept to a multi-million dollar, multi-national NGO within three years. He then transitioned from CEO to Chairman of the Board at InSTEDD, having established a stable organization with a superb international team and excellent prospects for the future.
Now, when he is not working with Singularity University at the NASA Ames Research Center, Dr. Rasmussen heads up Infinitum Humanitarian Systems (IHS), an international social business focused on the humanitarian sciences. His work at Singularity University helps discover and support more talent that will be equipped to tackle the major world issues we face that can either stall our development as a species or help humanity to achieve the goals set out by Gene Roddenberry in the Star Trek universe fifty years ago. Rasmussen's continuing work with IHS demonstrates the practical execution of those solutions within a commercially viable, and fully sustainable, model.
About Dr. Rasmussen
Dr. Rasmussen is an American physician specializing in modern medical ethics and tools for global disaster response. Dr. Rasmussen spent 25 years on active duty with the US Navy pioneering the specialty of humanitarian medicine inside the military, and has worked for more than three decades to improve healthcare within highly vulnerable populations in war zones and in the aftermath of natural disasters. On retiring from the Navy in 2007 he was selected by the Executive Director of Google.org to become the founding CEO of the 2006 TED Prize called InSTEDD, now a successful NGO. He remains Chairman of the Board of Directors at InSTEDD.
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