After a diversity of life experiences, growing up in East Los Angeles, earning master’s degrees in English literature and theology, working as a teacher, a chef, a regional sales manager for an information service company, an administrative assistant for a large San Francisco-based nonprofit, and apprenticing at a sustainable farm while living in a straw bale house in Blairstown, New Jersey without electricity or running water, Delia Molloy finally took respite with friends in Durham, North Carolina. She knew that it was time to leave volunteer work and return to San Francisco. Then she saw an ad on Craigslist that intrigued her. “It said, ‘We’re looking for a superhero,’” says Delia, “that they needed an executive assistant, and that they did HIV research.”
The organization was Bridge HIV, a unit within the San Francisco Department of Public Health and one of Heluna Health’s partner programs. Delia was planning a trip to San Francisco to interview for other jobs, and after submitting her resume and cover letter, she received a call from Bridge HIV, asking her to come in for an interview. She met with the deputy director, who called Director Susan Buchbinder during the interview and said he had someone who would work well as the executive assistant. Explaining why the interviewer was immediately impressed, Delia says, “I interview well and have robust administrative skills and experience working for organizations that provide HIV services.” He asked Dr. Buchbinder if she had time to speak to Delia.
“When I saw that they did HIV research, I said to myself, ‘This is calling me.’ I had friends who had died early in the AIDS epidemic. The job resonated with me.” Dr. Buchbinder interrupted her schedule to meet with Delia, and within two days, Delia received the formal job offer. During the interview with Dr. Buchbinder, Delia asked, “How long would you expect someone to stay in the executive assistant position?” Dr. Buchbinder responded that she’d be happy if she could stay for two years. “Here I am 17 years later,” Delia says. “That speaks a lot to what Bridge HIV does and to the compassionate, ego-less leadership that Dr. Buchbinder provides. She is a world-renowned HIV prevention researcher who approaches her work with deep humility and brings out the best in her staff.
“What inspires me is the difference that we make and have made in moving the entire field of HIV research forward,” Delia says. “We have conducted many of the studies that went on to show the efficacy of taking HIV antiretroviral medication, not only to treat HIV, but to prevent it. We have done groundbreaking work.”
Over those 17 years, Delia’s responsibilities have steadily increased. In 2015, when the deputy director left for a new job, Delia took over his position, gradually giving up her executive assistant duties. As Deputy Director, Delia oversees human resources and grants management, supporting Dr. Buchbinder, the other scientists who conduct research at Bridge HIV, and staff. This includes developing the budgets for grant proposals, submitting proposals on time, and compiling and filing periodic progress reports to government agencies and other funders. Delia closely monitors the active contracts and the time staff members allocate to various studies.
Delia is one of 20 Heluna Health employees who work at Bridge HIV. Others include clinicians, research associates, study coordinators, program assistants, a lab coordinator, a regulatory affairs manager, a database manager, a senior designer, a community programs manager, and a team of clinical studies recruiters. There can be as many as 15 studies under way at any one time. “I marvel that only 20 people can do all of this,” she says.
Delia attributes her success to her staff, especially April Garcia, the Administrative Coordinator at Bridge HIV, as well as her colleagues at Heluna Health headquarters. “I have an exceptional support team, and they are all Heluna Health employees. I have help from an HR generalist, a contracts and grants manager, and a project accountant at Heluna Health. I couldn’t do my job without them. I have a lot of people who have made my success and I really want to acknowledge them.”
Working at Heluna Health has many benefits, Delia says. “When I make a job offer, I always tell people that the benefits are extremely generous compared to other employers. From day one, you are able to accrue vacation and sick time. You have 11 paid holidays. There are many medical and dental options. The 403b plan is incredible. Lastly, there is an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP). Heluna Health has become a very forward-looking organization that values a diverse workforce and values lived experience—not just formal education. Heluna Health has made a deep commitment to racial equity. It makes me really proud to be a part of the organization.”