Many people know Priscilla Chan as the wife of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, but Chan has always stood apart in her own life. As a doctor, philanthropist, and mother of two, she’s made her stance in a multitude of ways. She’s been described as a hero and also as someone who is steady and warm, despite her tendency to cry when she’s sad, scared, or even wildly happy. Here’s a refresher on her relationship timeline with Zuckerberg, if you need it.
Chan’s friend and fellow doctor, Meg McNamara, told Quartz that she’s definitely known for her tendency to shed tears. “When she’s feeling exhausted or overwhelmed, and sometimes when she’s really ecstatic, it’s just one of her ways of expressing,” McNamara said. Despite that, Chan strong and resilient — she doesn’t back down from a challenge, and she has the ability to stay calm under pressure.
Chan is also passionate about everything she oversees. She currently is responsible for a budget of $700 million to $800 million for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Her goals and projects are focused on reforming public education, immigration, and criminal justice — she is also passionate about affordable housing and curing the world’s diseases.
“She’s really the hands-on person,” Robert Tjian, a member of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative science advisory board, told Vox. “This is really her day job now.”
Priscilla Chan comes from humble roots
Priscilla Chan hails from a low-income immigrant family; her parents are Chinese-Vietnamese immigrants, and she grew up watching her mom work two jobs in order to provide for her family (via Slate). Chan is also a first-generation college graduate, and spent much of her childhood translating English for her grandparents. It’s an unlikely beginning for a woman who would eventually grow up to become a successful doctor and to marry one of the world’s wealthiest men. Chan and Mark Zuckerberg — who has a stunning net worth — met when they were both attending Harvard, and many associated with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative believe she brings a unique perspective to everything the organization does.
Jim Shelton, the former education advisor at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, told Quartz, “Priscilla grew up low-income, part of an immigrant family. She brings a very direct perspective on what it means to struggle, what it looks like to have inequity in an environment. Mark did not have that exposure.”
Chan, unsurprisingly, has also applied her medical philosophy to her philanthropy. She attended the UCSF School of Medicine, is a licensed pediatrician, and is the founder of her own school — a homogenous combination that allows her to run one of the biggest philanthropic foundations in the world.
“We are all more capable than we could ever imagine or admit to,” Chan told Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, as noted by Vox. “We need to make sure that we are using that power now, and not waiting for a different time or when we’re more ready. We’re ready now. We need to do.”
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