By Danielle Beurteaux
Chip Skowron still carries the photo in his briefcase: He’s pictured with a six-year-old boy in an operating room in Pristina, Kosovo, in 2000. He has just removed a tumor from the boy’s proximal tibia, right below the knee.
Today, Skowron, 40, comanages FrontPoint Partners’ healthcare strategy. But nine years ago, he was an orthopedic resident at Massachusetts General Hospital on a medical mission with AmeriCares. After a decade of war, Kosovo’s medical system had been destroyed. “They had no tools that any modern facility would want to deal with the some of the worst surgical situations you could imagine,” Skowron says.
Local doctors wanted Skowron to amputate the boy’s leg, but he excised the tumor instead. Analysis of the tissue sample confirmed that Skowron was right—the tumor was benign. “I remember crying tears of joy,” he says. Six months later, he received another photo—of the little boy walking without crutches. “He was smiling and happy. That was all the thanks I needed.”
AmeriCares, based in Stamford, was formed 27 years ago to deliver medical care and supplies to parts of the world that lack basic healthcare services. The nonprofit also runs camps for HIV-positive children and free health clinics across Connecticut. Skowron was introduced to AmeriCares by his father-in-law, who brought him to a fundraising dinner in 1994.
Skowron’s AmeriCares missions include Cuba in 2000; Gujarat, India, in 2001 after a devastating earthquake; and the Gulf Coast in 2005 immediately after Hurricane Katrina. In Louisiana, Skowron helped set up a medical clinic in Baton Rouge and arranged for an AmeriCares mobile clinic to travel to New Orleans.
Toward the end of his medical residency, Skowron decided to give up medicine for finance. In 2001, he began working as a healthcare securities analyst at SAC Capital Advisors. He joined FrontPoint in 2003 to co-found its healthcare team. AmeriCares, he says, played a big role in helping him take this next step. “Knowing that I would have the opportunity to help others through an organization like AmeriCares gave me an emotional and spiritual satisfaction that I could take with me to any career.”
Today, Skowron sits on the board of AmeriCares and serves on the finance and development committee. AmeriCares president and chief executive, Curtis Welling, says Skowron’s dual expertise makes him invaluable. “We can engage him in discussions about our aid strategy to the extent that we have medical questions,” says Welling. “And his advice and counsel have been very important to us as we try to figure out what our asset allocation should be,” Welling adds, refering to the organization’s $33 million in investments.
That’s no small task with an operating budget of $950 million. For the past three years, Skowron and his wife, Cheryl, have co-chaired the group’s annual benefit, held in a hangar at the Westchester County Airport. Last year’s event raised a record $1 million, and he’s hoping to match that figure this year.
Skowron says AmeriCares’ work is as relevant today as it was at its founding. “Unfortunately ... I can’t imagine the amount of relief that would be required to care for all of the folks around the world.”