High Impact Philanthropy: Dr Sam Zand Of Better U Foundation On How To Leave A Lasting Legacy With A Successful & Effective Nonprofit Organization

An Interview with Karen Mangia

Karen Mangia
Authority Magazine


Give more than you take. If we all sought to give back to the world more than we took, the world will be at a sum net positive of love and giving.

For someone who wants to set aside money to establish a Philanthropic Foundation or Fund, what does it take to make sure your resources are being impactful and truly effective? In this interview series, called “How To Create Philanthropy That Leaves a Lasting Legacy” we are visiting with founders of Philanthropic Foundations, Charitable Organizations, and Non-Profit Organizations, to talk about the steps they took to create sustainable success.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Sam Zand.

Dr. Zand is a clinical psychiatrist from Johns Hopkins University and a socially conscious entrepreneur who focuses on improving our communities’ self-healing and self-growth. He is the co-founder of the Better U Foundation, which raises awareness and improves access to alternative mental health services such as psychedelic therapy and regenerative medicine.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about a ‘top of mind’ topic. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?

I always knew I wanted to be a psychiatrist, but I was turned off by the over diagnosing of illnesses and overprescribing of trial and error medications. The hospital systems and healthcare obstacles made it hard to properly care for people with enough time and attention. It wasn’t until volunteering at a free clinic in Las Vegas that I was able to realize the fulfillment and impact of my care. We had an older lady who complained of chronic knee pain. Given limitations in our free clinic, we could only recommend functional medicine and mild pain relief meds. The clinic offered prayer for every willing patient. This lady obliged. When we all huddled and prayed for her health and shared our love and empathy for her pain, the lady broke down into tears. She said in that moment she no longer felt her pain. Being a physician and scientist, I was shocked to see this instant result. Of course, we know that affection and love can decrease cortisol and inflammation, but we don’t quite understand why. This experience molded my early career to focus on love and compassion as medicine rather than in addition to medicine. Our clinical philosophy has always been to share love unconditionally for our patients and we see the positive results of this care every day.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? We would love to hear a few stories or examples.

1. Focus on individual strengths and weaknesses. Instead of leading others by asking them to conform to our tendencies, we’ve built a culture of meeting every team member where they are. By understanding an individual’s unique qualities and habits, we can appropriately align their responsibilities in a way to highlight their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses.

2. Lead with love and compassion. When someone makes a mistake or overlooks a responsibility, we focus on understanding why this problem occurred rather than taking punitive action. Allowing people to make mistakes and nourishing their growth has allowed our organizations to build leaders from within and increase a culture of family and loyalty.

3. Transparent and direct communication. Clear expectations, constructive feedback, and solution-oriented problem solving are the pillars of a healthy organization. Most relationship conflict stems from misunderstandings and miscommunication. If short and long-term interests are aligned, there should be no problem communicating through stressors. If transparency leads to unsolvable differences, it’s better to bring awareness early and not repress emotional conflict.

What’s the most interesting discovery you’ve made since you started leading your organization?

People don’t care about money as much as they care about their daily happiness. When we prioritize our own health and happiness above monetary gain, we often find long-lasting inspiration. I’ve seen so much commitment and hard work motivated by a love for the work we do rather than a focus on the financial gain from doing it. Ironically, by not prioritizing money, we often work more inspired and end up creating more value for the world and ourselves. If we all arrive to give more than we take, the world ends up in a net positive.

Can you please tell our readers more about how you or your organization intends to make a significant social impact?

Our mission is to improve national mental health culture and systemic integration across all industries.

We want to advance social consciousness in the direction of self-growth, self-love, and self-transcendence. In order to do this, we all need to prioritize our mental health and work on being the best version of ourselves. To reach the masses, it starts with industry leaders and trickles down.

We have aligned with partners in multiple medical specialties, corporate settings, professional and youth sports, social media outlets, school systems, jails, music, arts, entertainment, and more. By empowering industry leaders to improve mental health integration within their respective spheres of influence, we are hoping to broaden the reach of mental health care beyond the therapist or psychiatrist’s office.

It begins with awareness. Following the lead of our co-founder Drew Robinson, a former MLB player and suicide survivor, we are continuously recruiting mental health advocates who want to share their stories and help people prioritize their emotional and spiritual health.

The next step is access. Once the mental barrier towards self-improvement is prioritized, we ensure that all communities have access to trusted and vetted mental health care. Our pre-health student volunteers act as care coordinators to gently guide people along their mental health journey.

All this work culminates in instilling purpose. Combining social enterprise services with mental health strategy, we can help consult from the individual level up to the corporate level.

What makes you feel passionate about this cause more than any other?

Mental clarity and inner peace are the most important factors of overall health and happiness. Our world has been suffering mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. If we prioritize our mental health, we can overcome any external stressors.

Without naming names, could you share a story about an individual who benefitted from your initiatives?

We’ve had hundreds of patients who for the first time sought mental health treatment because of the influence of one of our ambassadors.

We all want to help and to live a life of purpose. What are three actions anyone could take to help address the root cause of the problem you’re trying to solve?

1. Share your mental health journey with someone who may need to hear it.

2. Be an accountability buddy for someone.

3. Help others in your tribe (family, workplace, or sphere of influence) to prioritize their mental health via daily intention, self-help resources, and professional integration.

Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Create A Successful & Effective Nonprofit That Leaves A Lasting Legacy?” Please share a story or example for each.

1. Give more than you take. If we all sought to give back to the world more than we took, the world will be at a sum net positive of love and giving.

2. Lead by example. Organizational culture embodies the personalities of the leaders. I recall a patient who could not stop cursing and yelling at me. I could barely get a full sentence in. By the time she was done berating me, I learned she had stage 4 cancer, her assigned therapist fell asleep on her mid-session, and she had a hard time believing anyone cared about her. After controlling my own physical reaction to her anger, I reminded myself of the ethos we try to instill in our work. Our angry, rude, and even anti-social patients can only be cured by one thing: more love. After the lady was done yelling at me, I stood my ground. I am here to love and heal. She can take out all her anger on me, and I will still try to love her through her end life stage. These are the cases we share in our staff meetings to remind everyone that the healing we’re looking to provide starts with us being the most empathetic and compassionate versions of ourselves.

3. Lean into altruistic selfishness: Feel good doing good. I imagine Mother Teresa as a selfish human. She loved herself so much that she wanted to feel fulfilled as much as possible by giving to others, which is one of the most fulfilling feelings in the human experience. If we all learned to seek fulfillment by giving, we would all be happy, selfish or not.

4. Make your mess your message. I lost a patient to suicide. He post-dated an email to me explaining his decision. It was somewhat introspective, peaceful, and even complimentary. None of the reassuring words could provide solace. I keep that letter in my desk drawer to remind myself that there’s always something more I can offer my patients. Even in the most difficult cases, if I can take my time with my patients and let them know they’re listened to and loved, that may be enough to save a life.

5. Train inspired leaders. Followers are a dime a dozen. Leaders don’t grow on trees. We need to cultivate, nourish, and grow the inner leader in all of us.

How has the pandemic changed your definition of success?

Success is not measured by money but by the amount of time you can spend. What we do and who we share our time with is the most valuable part of life. Collecting memories, experiences, and interactions are much more rewarding investments than buying things.

How do you get inspired after an inevitable setback?

Maintaining a growth mindset is the key to persevering through setbacks. We don’t grow in our comfort zone, so we should aspire to be uncomfortable. A setback is a learning opportunity. Without the experience of failure, there is no wisdom.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world who you would like to talk to, to share the idea behind your non-profit? He, she, or they might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

Brock Pierce. We’ve actually spoken to him about utilizing his economic and political influence to help others prioritize their mental health and lead an industry of healing via psychedelic integration. Let’s see if this column helps manifest our mutual goals.

You’re doing important work. How can our readers follow your progress online?


Thank you for a meaningful conversation. We wish you continued success with your mission.