Dan Hartman, Director of Integrated Development
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle, WA

It’s 9 a.m. on a slightly overcast Saturday in Seattle as we arrive at The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  The 13-year old global, ‘We will make a difference and take on the really tough projects’, powerhouse organization that Bill and Melinda Gates pour their daily energy and passion into is a majestic, creatively designed campus.

I wish I was writing this story about the man himself, but that will have to be another time.  Instead, and rightfully so, this is about what you would refer to as a rock star of the science world. 

Dr. Dan Hartman, Director of Integrated Development, is a 50-year old, ‘yep, I’m getting older and I know it,’ pulmonary critical care physician by training and a tall, ex-college basketball player.  I had the distinct honor to meet and talk with Dr. Dan at the foundation.

I have to point out that this opportunity to engage such a brilliant physician / scientist could not have happened on my own accord.  Tom Rau, our co-executive producer for this film, is a dear friend of Dan’s; it was his great idea to interview Dan.

Dr. Dan, who is extremely humble and clearly a great ambassador for the foundation, as well as for Bill and Melinda, opened up his day for a Saturday interview.

To prepare for this, he offered to give us a tour on Friday when we arrived.  This, he felt, would help with my production planning and he was right.  I always try to pick a scene that defines who I’m filming. 

As we walked around on Friday, I was taking in the poignant human, real life images of what the Gates Foundation represents:  the Polio vaccination in developing countries, the desire to help farmers in third world countries grow better food, or the all-out assault on the AIDS epidemic worldwide.

These are not small goals but just some of what the team of one thousand foundation employees work on all under the visionary direction of Bill and Melinda Gates.  It’s hard not to come away from here; not feeling proud to be an American and wishing you could be a part of this team.

Dan is a thinking man.  I’ve done hundreds of interviews over the years.  You know you’re with an extremely intelligent human being when you ask a question and they just give you a cold, long stare.  He slowly takes a breath and then speaks – the words and thoughts flow like an opera.  Each word becomes a phrase and evokes a thought.  You then know why this gentleman is the director of Integrated Development of what might arguably be the one of the most influential entities in the world.

Last week while in Beijing, China, Dan noted, “It’s not hard to see how various aspects of our culture, mainly high caloric diets / fast food and sedentary behavior have led to the rapid growth of Type II diabetes in China.” Dan talks about this with real emotional concerns.

Dan offered an important overview of medication – the danger of balancing several prescriptions with the risk vs. reward of pharmaceuticals.

On the subject of having a purpose in life, he was quick to talk about Bill Gates, Sr., the 86-year old father of Bill Gates who comes to work everyday at the foundation and is still very committed to the big picture.

As our time came to an end, Dan offered to take Tom, my son Josh and myself on a hike in one of Washington’s beautiful parks.  It was clearly a guy’s bonding time. 

The highlight of the trek was watching this great mind of medicine and science attempt to leap from one boulder to another over a rushing river.  Standing at 6’8”, you decide if he made it or not.

Most importantly for me as I came home from my two days with Dan and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was the desire to see what I can do to make a difference in the lives of children from these less fortunate places in the world, who deserve so much more.

You get the sense that an underlying mission statement at the foundation is “how can we affect a change in people’s lives who don’t have what we have in America?”  This is clearly a great lesson for us all.

Thank you to all at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for helping teach the rest of us on what is possible and what we should do for our fellow man, women and children.

To learn more about what the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation does,
click here.