November 2, 2017
BE Modern Man: Meet ‘The Sickle Cell Champion’ Jeffrey Zuttah
Name: Jeffrey Zuttah
Profession: Business Development Professional
One Word That Describes You: Resilient
Social Media: LinkedIn: Jeffrey Zuttah
What does being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction mean to you?
I am humbled and honored to be considered a Man of Distinction. I was born with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD), and, as a result of the associated stigma, I feared that people would pre-judge me and underestimate the kind of life I was capable of living. I’ve sought to use the challenges SCD presents as a source of motivation that fuels my pursuit of a life well lived. It is an honor to be recognized for that.
What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?
Starting in childhood, I have strived to live an active life. My brothers and I played many organized team sports. I became interested in and started to play football (formally) in high school. Initially, I struggled, in part due to the fatigue caused by SCD, as well as my inability to adequately articulate the kind of help and support I needed from my coaches and teammates. In time, as I learned to discuss SCD and lean on teammates and coaches, my skill set and passion for the game grew.
Although there were setbacks, I persisted. Eventually, I was a captain of an undefeated state championship team, was honored as an All-American player, and received dozens of athletic scholarships from schools in every major college football conference. Unfortunately, after playing in my first two college football games, my career ended. During a fairly routine strength training session, I suffered the worst SCD pain crisis of my life. Some weeks thereafter, I had a conference call with my coaches, parents, and doctors. It was on the call where I was told my time as a college football player was over. I was devastated.
While my football career was over, I was determined to refocus my energy and make a positive impact on the world around me. In addition to joining and managing a number of student run organizations, I went on to graduate from Stanford with a degree in public policy. I received an MBA from Harvard Business School with honors. I worked in a number of positions across financial services sector and I’ve worked in government as a member of the Obama Administration’s Financial Crisis Response Team. I’ve taken what I’ve learned throughout these experiences and am currently working for a digital healthcare company whose mission is to enable every person in our society to thrive by building a collaborative mental and physical health ecosystem.
What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?
The qualities I appreciate most are intellectual curiosity, empathy, respect for otherness, an orientation toward growth, and a competitive spirit. My most rewarding relationships are born of these qualities.
What are some immediate projects you are working on?
I recently joined forces with a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company called Global Blood Therapeutics Inc. to help raise awareness about SCD, fight the stigma associated with the disorder, and, hopefully, inspire others. We completed a short video that captures my story that premiered at the 6th Annual Sickle Cell Disease Therapeutics Conference in in New York City.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Growing up, before we’d leave the house, our mother would tell us, “no drinking, no smoking, be a leader.” Overtime, “be a leader” evolved into something of a family mantra. It’s a piece of advice that has required me to reflect on what leadership means to me. In some ways, it’s a call to action to develop the entirety of one’s self so that you can better serve others.
What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?
My first piece of advice is know your why. Understand what you seek to solve and what motivates you to do so. My second piece of advice is to take all you know—your strengths, your skills, your setbacks and challenges—and find ways to channel them into productive uses.
How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?
I use the same techniques I used in sports. I envision the day of the event in as much detail as possible and walk through it. I think about the cadence, the ebb and flow of the events, and work backward to the present day. It helps me prepare all the sub-components of a successful outcome.
As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation? Share a story about your best vacation.
These days, the pace of my vacations are dramatically different than they used to be. Ideally, I’d spend about one-third of my time doing things that are adrenalin amplifying: riding ATVs, boating on the open seas, etc. The other two-thirds I’d allocate towards rest, relaxation, meaningful reflection and connection with the human condition.
In many ways, it would mimic one of my favorite vacations from the summer of 2007. I had the privilege to visit some of my best friends at their homes in Nicaragua. It is a truly beautiful country filled with a diverse array of landscapes and warm, welcoming people.
If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel all across the world. So, the next priority on my travel list is a trip to the town where my parents were raised in Ghana. I’d look forward to staying with aunts, uncles, and cousins and hearing their stories of my parents in their youth.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I’d like to highlight the importance of clinical trials. Without participation in clinical trials, especially by the SCD community, it’ll be hard to find new therapies to improve the lives of others. If you have any questions about SCD or GBT please visit www.globalbloodtx.com or www.gbtsicklecell.com.
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