For the last decade, Jacqueline Fabius ’95 has asked herself this question as she considers a career move: Does the work have an impact on humanity?
In her many and varied career choices over the years, Fabius had always followed her heart, but she sharpened her focus to that single point after she lived for four years in Haiti, where her parents are from and where much of her family lives.
Until 2010, after a deadly earthquake devastated the impoverished country, Fabius had visited but never lived in her parents’ homeland. As she watched the televised images of death and destruction, she knew immediately she would go there to help in some way.
She found an avenue through a former administrator of the high school she attended in Israel Her father worked in the operational side of the United Nations, so Fabius lived most of her pre-Hamilton life in Egypt and Israel. Her former high school superintendent asked her if she would help him create a school in Haiti for students whose chance at an education had been smashed to pieces.
Read about other alumni who are making an impact in their professions and communities throughout the world.
Fabius left the small project management business she owned and headed to Haiti, helping to build the Children of Haiti Project. She and its other founders selected 50 4- and 5-year-olds to enroll to gain an education through high school.
“The idea was to provide a completely progressive program, free for this cohort of children, and give them the kind of education that they would have received at an international school anywhere else in the world,” Fabius said.
The school opened in May 2010, and its first class is closing in on graduation. After working with the school for a year and a half, Fabius took a job running a U.N. sustainable development project in rural southern Haiti. She moved to the U.S. at the end of 2014 and is still an advisor to the school.
“Having a say in its creation and the direction it was going in definitely changed my life and the kind of things I want to be involved in. And so, I guess, I continually look for that impact on humanity in one way or another,” Fabius said.
Which brought her to her current job, chief operating officer of the Quantitative Biosciences Institute (QBI) at the University of California San Francisco. After she left Haiti, she met the director of the brand new institute, molecular biologist Nevan Krogan, who needed someone to help him run the place. Its mission — to foster “collaborations across the biomedical and the physical sciences, seeking quantitative methods to address pressing problems in biology and biomedicine.”
It felt like a good fit. Although Fabius had no background in science, she could see the potential for the institute’s long-term impact on human health. She took the position, working with the director to create global scientific collaborations to support research and discovery.
“We dreamt up different programs, different approaches; we literally went around the globe meeting scientists, going to different institutes, and creating incredible relationships with people around the world,” she said.
The relationships the institute forged have born fruit during the COVID-19 pandemic, Fabius said. Krogan refocused his lab exclusively on COVID, then quickly expanded through QBI, the institute, to work collaboratively, in particular on drugs to use against the virus, with dozens of other labs at UCSF and beyond.
“So my role has been a lot of building relationships and setting the collaborations, both in person along with the director and interacting with scientists, but also in the background, with the entire administrative machine that it takes to get all of these collaborations going as well as running the institute,” Fabius said.