As a child of a single mom in Hong Kong, Jessica Qu was familiar with money issues. When she was about five years old, she and her mother were evicted from their apartment because they couldn’t afford to pay the rent. They had no family or others to help them, but a kind lady they met in the park took them in until they could get back on their feet. “That act of kindness from a complete stranger taught me the importance of giving back,” she says. “It is ingrained in my mind and it has guided the way I conduct myself professionally and personally ever since.”
Even though her mom worked multiple jobs to make ends meet, Jessica felt like she had enough when she was young because of the support her mother gave her. That support likely saved Jessica’s life when she moved to the United States to live with her mother’s new husband and his family.
“After we got to San Francisco, things got very scary and dangerous,” she recalls. “My stepsisters were involved with gangs and the family was mean and verbally abusive. I lived there until I couldn’t stand it any longer.”
When she was a middle school student, Jessica moved out of her stepfamily’s house, into a small apartment that she describes as “the perfect escape.” With her mother’s help, she lived there for two years by herself. During that time, her stepsisters were murdered and her stepfather died, leaving Jessica and her mother to live together again.
Jessica didn’t know what to expect in college since she was the first person in her family to apply. Fortunately, the people she met at her Coca-Cola Scholars weekend provided her with guidance and a strong support network that she cherishes to this day. “It was a huge relief knowing that there is always this family that will be there, whatever I need – always a connection when I need help or advice. The Scholars’ weekend is just the beginning of a longer journey with a family you have for the rest of your life.”
Thanks to her Coca-Cola Scholarship and other scholarships, Jessica went to Yale and flourished as a pre-med student, even though she knew she didn’t want to practice medicine in a hospital like most of her peers. “For me, it was not a straight path,” she explains. “I wanted unique experiences and to find out what I was passionate about.”
She traveled each summer during college, to India, the Dominican Republic, Beijing and Tibet, and her travels to some of the world’s poorest places solidified her interest in public health. Returning to San Francisco after college, Jessica reached out to her Coca-Cola Scholars network and was surprised and gratified at the outpouring of help she received in her job search.
She ultimately landed a job she loves with Medic Mobile, a developer of technologies for use in managing chronic diseases, such as diabetes, in under-resourced communities around the world. Medic Mobile’s text messaging technologies are helping diabetes patients schedule and remember their appointments with doctors. In addition, the text messaging technologies are helping youth with Type 1 diabetes know how much insulin to take. Jessica says Medic Mobile has a number of other products for improving health in developing nations and the company has expanded its focus to underserved communities in the U.S. where there is definitely a need for these types of tools.
She is also chair of the San Francisco Chapter of the Acumen Fund, an organization that seeks to address poverty and make an impact by investing in social enterprises, emerging leaders and breakthrough ideas. This global non-profit venture fund supports sustainable businesses in areas of need, such as clean water and energy, health, housing and agriculture. Jessica’s goal for the San Francisco Chapter (San Francisco+ Acumen Fund) is to help potential investors in the bay area learn what impact investing means and how they can incorporate a social responsibility element into their businesses. “Many people have a strong desire to get involved and make socially responsible investments, but they don’t know how to get started,” she says.
The common thread in Jessica’s life is her desire to give back because she was once on the receiving end. “I’ve experienced first-hand the challenges of the people I’m trying to help – people who live in poverty without access to adequate healthcare. I’m grateful for all the experiences I’ve had, even the unpleasant ones. They made me who I am and I’ve tried to make something out of everything.”