IGHI people: Meet Joanne Sarao, Finance and Contracts Manager, Centre for Health Policy

IGHI is home to a team of staff who are skilled and passionate about their roles. Our talented people are the reason we’re able to tackle some of the most pressing global health challenges through cutting-edge innovation.

We’re giving you the chance to get to know our staff a little better and learn about what motivates them in their roles, who inspires them and what they like to get up to outside of IGHI.

Meet Joanne Sarao, our Centre for Health Policy’s finance and contracts manager. Learn more about how Joanne handles managing budgets, grants and staff funding for the Centre.

What does your role involve? 

My role is varied and collaborative with wide-ranging responsibilities in finance management, contracts, compliance, and HR related activities.

I manage the Centre for Health Policy’s financial resources, such as departmental accounts and research grants, to ensure that all the Centre’s financial activities are carried out in accordance with the College’s policies and procedures.

I work alongside IGHI staff when bidding for research projects, helping with pre-and post-award activities, providing budget reports, financial analysis and projections. I’m involved in staff funding allocations and making key recommendations to all budget holders to ensure that they spend funds appropriately and within budgets.

I also provide advice on commercial and research contracts with external suppliers and partner organisations.

What attracted you to the role? 

IGHI has incredibly innovative projects across the globe. Being able to support the Institute’s mission in the best way I can is important to me. I always get excited and motivated when staff win awards to fund various multi-disciplinary projects that have the potential to make a difference.

My role also gives me the opportunity to establish relationships with Imperial’s diverse community to achieve our goals.

How would your colleagues describe you in three words or phrases? 

Patient, calm and willing to help.

My job requires interaction within and outside the Institute to implement policies and procedures, while acting as a middleman between department and central offices. This can be challenging so I guess I can count on the above attributes to get the job done!

What’s your biggest achievement to date – personal or professional? 

Before joining IGHI, I had the opportunity to work at Weill Cornell Medicine, Qatar, a satellite campus of Weill Cornell Medicine New York. I was there for almost six years, leading the first research grants finance team. This allowed me to learn how to work effectively with teams located in different parts of the world.

We fostered an environment of collaboration, focusing on financial management, grants management, project management and administrative excellence. It was a huge undertaking at that time, having to run a central branch office with limited resources, time difference, location, differences in institutional policies and other obstacles.

Having contributed to enabling the research finance team to function successfully, my role then expanded to co-lead the Business Services team in Qatar. Here, I was involved in other projects and streamlining business processes in conjunction with the New York team.

I didn’t realise the magnitude of the job until I was in Qatar. I’m glad I decided to face the challenge, as it definitely is one of my biggest achievements.

Who inspires you? 

My parents. I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps career-wise, but ventured in another direction instead. I always admired his dedication and commitment to his job.

My mum is the kindest person for me, she easily connects with people and is always willing to help.

If you had a superpower, what would it be? 

I would make COVID-19 disappear as if it did not happen at all. I would also like for all nations to have a reliable healthcare system available to all, regardless of status.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Watching the TV series Glee and singing along to it!


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