1. Tell me where Michael Hund started. What's your story? How did you get to where you are now?
I’m a country boy. I was raised in the Flint Hills of Kansas in a small town of two hundred people called Paxico. My family is the sixth generation of cattle ranchers who have been on the same plot of serene and scenic land for more than a century. The ecosystem of the Flint Hills and the tallgrass prairie inherently embedded a unique world view within me. Standing at the top of a hill and being able to see expansive land for miles instilled a sense that the world was within grasp, the pasture burnings in the spring always brought about the belief in renewal and regeneration, and life in a small farming culture bestowed the morals of interdependence, strength in the togetherness of community, and the beauty of simplicity.
I was blessed to be constantly surrounded by strong mentors: my parents, my family, and notably my two grandfathers who although differed in their calling, one a Kansas cattle rancher and the other a New York founder of several successful beverage companies, were united in their entrepreneurial spirit and ability to be natural born leaders. It was one grandfather who introduced me to an actor who had started a camp in the countryside of Connecticut for children with cancer, HIV/AIDS, sickle cell, and other life-threatening illnesses where they were given back their childhood through the fun and playfulness of camp in a medically safe and supportive environment.
As soon as I could I signed up to volunteer for a session, and at 19 years old I drove across the country for an experience that would change my life forever. I had the good fortune to meet this actor, Mr. Paul Newman, and went on to work for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for more than a decade. I worked on the front lines with families who had a child battling serious illness, their doctors, and social workers to provide them wrap around services of fun, inclusion, and a community who uniquely understood what they were going through. It is one of the most inspiring missions I have ever come across and it was my work here that built the foundation for not only a passion for the field of healthcare, but a deep rooted desire to seek cures for cancer.
2. What is the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation? What's your mission? The capacity of your work with the organization?
The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) is a game-changing cancer research foundation accelerating cures in myeloma and in the process changing the paradigm of the entire healthcare industry. The founder of the MMRF, Kathy Giusti, is a Harvard Business School grad who, faced with a diagnosis of myeloma and only a few months to live more than 20 years ago, decided to fight and turn a slow-moving, bureaucratic, and fragmented cancer research field on its head. She had the vision to aggregate what is now one of the largest genomic datasets in all of cancer, pioneer an innovative end-to-end precision medicine model, and incentivize collaboration and data sharing in the academic medical center community. Kathy has since been named to the Time 100, FORTUNE’s 50 Greatest Leaders, the White House Precision Medicine Initiative and Cancer Moonshot, and most recently tapped to lead the HBS Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator. Because of the work of the MMRF, myeloma, this “rare” blood cancer has seen unprecedented progress with 10 treatments approved in just over a decade and the tripling of patient life expectancy. The innovative model serves as a gold standard for how uniting a community of patients, doctors, researchers, advocates, and philanthropists can truly bring about disruptive change.
I knew as soon as I met Kathy, the MMRF is where I needed to be. Professionally I was craving the opportunity to learn and apply business acumen to healthcare and personally I was passionate about moving the needle in cancer treatment after spending more than a decade up close and personal with families fighting for their lives and sometimes ultimately suffering from loss. My current role of the Director of Development provides me the opportunity to be a unifier of the often disparate stakeholders involved in bringing about meaningful and lasting change in the pursuit of cures. My position allows me to work directly with leading clinicians, researchers, philanthropists, and patients who share my passion for overcoming the obstacles standing in the way of delivering more treatments, longer lives, and eventually cures. I always say, my greatest reward in work would be to become unemployed because that would mean we have achieved our goal of finding cures and could move on to the next challenge.
3. If a college student was unsure about becoming a doctor but wanted to have a healthy healthcare career, what advice could you give them considering your own experiences? Where do they start?
Healthcare is such an electrifying area right now and ripe for entrepreneurs, leaders, and disruptors of all kinds. The decade ahead will hold unparalleled advances and opportunities in healthcare as technology rapidly expands and the field begs for its full integration. Already we are seeing the emergence of new technologies in healthcare like CRISPR gene-editing, 3D printing of organs, artificial intelligence, and predictive mapping, telemedicine, biosensors and wearables, virtual reality, and blockchain just to name a few. Young people can start to consider careers in healthcare beyond the traditional areas of doctors, nurses, and researchers because now we need coders, hackers, engineers, designers, mathematicians, bioinformaticians, philosophers and more. The Zuckerbergs, Bezos, Brins, and Pages of tomorrow will be the ones who deliver the Oculus, Drones, and Google Maps of the future to healthcare. So my advice would be, ask not what healthcare can do for you, but what you can do for healthcare. Healthcare is primed for innovation and what better incentive than to know your ingenuity could save a life.
4. How is the Yale MBA program? What do you like about it? Why did you decide to do an MBA with a healthcare focus? What is your ultimate goal with that?
Joining the Yale MBA for Executives program has universally exceeded my expectations and I could not imagine a better time to take it on than now. I had my doubts on whether I could handle taking on such a rigorous program on top of work and family commitments, and it has undoubtedly been challenging at times just to find enough hours in the day, but I am constantly reminded of the benefit of pursuing continuous learning.
My three biggest takeaways a year in with a year to go have been that: 1. I know now how much I did not know about the world and language of business 2. I could have predicted how much I would learn from the world-renowned faculty but could not have predicted how much I would learn from my fellow classmates, and 3. I feel a life-long commitment and gratitude to a community that has collectively pushed me further than where I ever thought I was capable of going.
What inspires me a great deal about the Yale School of Management is that it significantly stands apart from its competitors and I believe this is rooted in a mission that permeates all facets of its being: Educating Leaders for Business and Society. The “and society” piece it what makes the community and culture different, it sets an objective that as leaders in business our job is to not only think about shareholders but to also think about stakeholders, specifically society at large and how we have the opportunity to make a positive impact on the world around us in the pursuit of success. The commitment to society is supremely important in healthcare because if you start to take your focus off of the end user, the patient, and how you can improve their lives, then you are in the wrong business.
5. What do you believe to be a balanced life? How do you think we can all find more peace and happiness?
How to achieve a balanced life and find more peace and happiness is such a great question, and while I don’t have the answer it is something I ask habitually and continually try to improve on. One aspect of finding balance that I am starting to realize is that many times balance is more about what you choose not to do than what you choose to do. For example, I have begun to learn the importance of saying no, and this is tough because it does not come easily to me. It is in my nature to offer help and guidance, to take on more responsibility, and to be intrigued by new challenges. However, experience has demonstrated that by taking on too much, everything can suffer and our talents and passions cannot be maximized or optimized.
When I was accepted into the Yale School of Management on top of having a full-time job and being a full-time dad, I knew that I would have to make sacrifices, so I decided to write a credo that was threefold: 1. To always put family first 2. To always remain humble and focused and 3. To use the doors these opportunities will open as a platform to accomplish meaningful and lasting impact for the greater good of humanity.
For me, committing to a credo has helped navigate my decisions, and if my time does not ladder back up to these three areas, I should really question whether it is worth it and if it will make me happy. In addition to the credo, I have recently taken up meditation which has provided a tremendous amount of centering and peace.
6. How has being a father shaped you?
My wife and my daughter are not only the reasons why I work so hard, but also the reason I stay on course. They are my rock, my inspiration, my everything. Being a father has taught me a great deal about selflessness, it is not about me anymore, and being driven by providing the best life possible for my daughter guides my every move. I stand in constant wonderment in how much I learn from daughter. At two years old, she is the greatest teacher I have ever had. Children remind us that when we step out of the distractions and stresses of our daily lives, it is truly life’s most simple elements that are the most important: creativity, questioning, nature, laughter, and adventure. When your daughter smiles in complete awe at a snowflake that lands on her arm and wants to do nothing more than catch and analyze them for hours, it is a reminder to slow down and enjoy the beauty and harmony of the world around us.
7. There's been a lot of healthcare policy discussions as of recent. What discussions are you having with your colleagues related to your research, fundraising, and the future of healthcare?
What is most fascinating about healthcare right now to me and many of my colleagues is how the rapid advance of technology is accelerating the field of cancer research. The Big Data movement in oncology is allowing us the ability to code and hack cancer. The MMRF CoMMpass Study, the NCI’s Genomic Data Commons, and companies like 23andMe all provide great examples of large-scale genomic data accumulation and integration. The more genomic information we can collect, and the broader we can make the data available to the public, the faster discoveries can be made. Today, those discoveries may mean learning more about why certain genomic alterations cause disease to progress and what the best actionable targets are; in the future that may mean predicting when disease will progress and providing data on what the best treatment, or combination of treatments, is right for which patients. The promise of precision medicine holds so much hope for patients as we move away from blanket treatments for specific diseases and towards precise treatments for individuals. We can envision a future where treatment becomes predictive as opposed to responsive.
The field of immune therapy fascinates me because it is so logical: leverage the body’s immune system to fight cancer. The promise of leveraging the body’s immune system has been proven in vaccines for global epidemics like polio and measles, in HIV, and even in the basic science of our ability to fight off a common cold. In myeloma, we have already seen the power of immune therapies as several have already been approved by the FDA with more on the way, but there is still much more work to be done. The future will hold further discovery as innovative approaches develop like CAR T-Cell therapy and more disruptors like Napster founder, former Facebook President, and now leader of the Parker Institute for Immunotherapy Sean Parker enter the space.
Finally, my single biggest passion in healthcare is patient driven care, empowering the patient to take a direct role in navigating their patient journey and providing them the best tools to do so. When we travel, getting from point A to B is as easy as saying out loud to Google Maps where you desire to go and being guided not only along every step of the way but the most efficient path. Imagine if navigating the healthcare system was as easy as being told where to turn left and right along with your journey. There has to be a better way for patients to access, store, and transfer their health data and to leverage this information to guide them in their journey. If Facebook and Google can take my data to sell me a t-shirt from my alma matter every week and pitch me news based on my likes, we can leverage data to help drive meaningful patient engagement, preventative care, and save lives. It is my goal to help patients take back control of their health journey and get into the driver seat. The opportunity is that there is more data available to patients than ever before, but there is a need to bring it together in a seamless, intuitive, beautiful and impactful way.
8. If you were asked to give a Ted Talk, what would it be on and why?
If I were to give a Ted Talk, the title would be The Power of Passion, Positivity, and People. When I reflect on specific causes of success in my life, I could directly attribute the power of these three forces and their convergence to achievement. In a Venn diagram of Passion, Positivity, and People the area of overlap of all three would be where I believe one can find their calling and a path to achieve it. Life is way too short to not spend your time laser focused on what you are passionate about, and by failing to do so you are not only doing yourself a disservice but the world at large because humanity needs passionate people, that is how we as individuals are optimized. Practicing a lifestyle of positivity creates a magnet for other positive forces and allows us to capture creativity and push productivity, impossible is an opinion and we have to believe we have the power to accomplish whatever it is we dream. People are the vessel for all great accomplishments, and the more people we connect with the more perspectives we obtain, the wider our canvas, and the stronger our web to capture and hold tight to our beliefs, values, and personal mission. In The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho writes, “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” and I firmly believe living a life rooted in passion, positivity, and people unlocks the ability to achieve your wildest dreams.
9. What message(s) of hope would you give for the future generations? What can they look forward to?
Let nothing stand in the way of the pursuit of your passion, impossible is a state of mind, never ignore that feeling in your gut and in your heart that is guiding you, the friction you feel when you step outside of your comfort zone is growth, trust that there is a greater purpose for you, leadership is about empowering others, and live a life of humility and gratitude.