Gail Steckley, Senior Fund Portfolio Manager at Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria
Master of Public Administration (‘92)
Gail Steckley clearly remembers her public sector budgeting course in the School of Public Policy and Administration. The topic could be dry—how policymakers create budgets and track spending—but 25 years later and half a world away, she draws on it almost every day.
“It was an extremely relevant program for what I do now,” says Ms. Steckley, who oversees the Global Fund’s $300 million Indonesia portfolio, which provides funds to community groups and government agencies on the ground as they treat and prevent AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
“We allocate funds using sound epidemiological evidence and then monitor the use of those funds in more than 100 different countries,” she says. “In Indonesia, there is a strong focus on tuberculosis because Indonesia has one of the highest TB burdens in the world. So our priority is to help people on the ground identify more cases and get them treated.”
That’s not easy, she says, due to Indonesia’s geography.
“The biggest challenge is that it’s so vast and the number of islands you have to reach,” explains Ms. Steckley, who cites the rise of drug-resistant TB as a particular concern. “We have to get drugs, training and facilities functioning in so many different places in order to reach the people who need daily treatment.”
Ms. Steckley’s work at the Global Fund follows a lengthy career in international development work, including a stint living in Indonesia as CARE Canada’s country director from 2005 to 2008. During that time, she learned the language and developed a strong appreciation for the country.
“Indonesia is endlessly fascinating,” she says. “The many islands are diverse and often stunning, and the people are kind and welcoming.”
In addition to supporting clinics and providing medication in Indonesia, Ms. Steckley says the Global Fund supports groups that are challenging the stigmas that still exist within Indonesian society.
“People are still afraid or reluctant to be tested for HIV, in particular,” she says. “So we are supporting organizations that are training health care workers to be aware of these stigmas and overcome their own prejudices.”
The Global Fund estimates that there are one-third fewer deaths from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in the countries where it invests. Ms. Steckley says those statistics motivate her every day.
“It really does matter to know that what you’re doing is helping create better conditions for people living in disadvantaged situations,” she says. “It makes the inevitable bureaucratic burdens of managing so much money easier to take.”
As for advice to graduates interested in development work, Ms. Steckley noted that sometimes it’s important just to get that foot in the door. Finding undergrad or graduate programs of study that offer internship opportunities with funding agencies or nongovernmental agencies is a great way to start. “Gone are the days when we went abroad to teach people things. Now, we have to be responsive to what other countries need.”