Karen Gottlieb ’85: Nonprofit health care
Despite working in an industry plagued by chronic understaffing, Karen Gottlieb, executive director of the AmeriCares Free Clinics program, remains upbeat. “When you’re in nonprofit,” she explains, “you often have to work the equivalent of two full-time jobs; but I love what I do, which makes it all worthwhile.” While it may be common to hear decision makers talk about heavy workloads and tout their own versatility, Gottlieb’s ability to handle the roles of businessperson, fund-raiser and even nurse in her organization offers a distinct view of what it means to be in charge.
Gottlieb enrolled in the School to create a career path outside of health care, and upon graduating she worked for a money-management firm on Wall Street. Within a year, she longed to return to the field she had left and found a job marketing medical equipment. Later, Gottlieb accepted what she describes as a more emotionally rewarding” position directing a cardiac rehabilitation program in New Haven.
Gottlieb joined AmeriCares, the nonprofit disaster-relief and humanitarian-aid organization, as a volunteer in 1993, traveling to Siberia on one of her first assignments to assess medical needs on the Yamal Peninsula. Bob Macauley, founder of AmeriCares, then asked her to work closer to home in Connecticut to help design and build the Free Clinics domestic program. Her role was addressing the medical needs of residents who cannot afford health care insurance but do not qualify for government assistance.
Gottlieb opened and now oversees additional clinics in Danbury and southeastern Connecticut. Her responsibilities range from recruiting volunteer doctors and soliciting donations from pharmaceutical companies to overseeing staffing and planning budgets. “The beauty of my job is that no two days are ever the same,” comments Gottlieb. “Today I’m in the clinic, and tomorrow I might be doing fund-raising or making a presentation to a medical association. It’s a wide, wide array of responsibility.”