Creating Social Value Blog / Social Innovation

Why This Doctor Went to Business School

By Sthuthi Jebaraj MBA’18.

As the sole medical doctor in my cohort, I frequently get asked why I’m in business school, and why I chose Babson in particular. To answer this question, I must describe the journey that brought me here.

In 2007, I graduated from Christian Medical College in Vellore, one of the best medical schools in India. Being young, idealistic, and ready to save the world, I moved to Maharashtra (a different state in India) to fulfill a rural service obligation, and began work in a secondary care hospital called the Jalna Mission Hospital (JMH). This experience provided a stark illustration of how much the Indian healthcare system can vary between states. While JMH was definitely one of the better hospitals in the area, patients often reached us too late to be successfully treated, or had conditions that would have been easily preventable had a well-functioning public healthcare system been in place. I started to see the importance of considering healthcare from a population perspective, and working at a systemic level began to be more appealing to me than direct clinical work. I decided to study public health, and funded by a Fulbright fellowship, got my Master’s in Public Health at Harvard.

Returning to India, I joined a large nonprofit organization, where I managed maternal and child health as well as nutrition projects in rural areas. While we had some successes, I wondered if what we were doing was sustainable. Did these programs really help improve the health of these communities in the long-term, or were they just short-term fixes? One example illustrates some of the struggles we faced: in one of the villages in which we worked, the primary care clinic had not received a critical supply of antenatal vitamins, yet vendors’ road-side stalls were well stocked with Coca-Cola and chips. It seemed ridiculous that life-saving medication struggled to cover that last mile but junk food could.

While I am wary of treating healthcare and global development purely through a business lens, I felt there was much I could learn from how companies were operated and managed. For instance, mapping the supply chain for antenatal vitamins at the program design stage could help ensure a continuous supply of drugs to high-needs areas; having the financial tools to understand the cost structure of a clinic could help us better estimate our funding needs; and integrating public health and market segmentation research could help us better target healthcare interventions for highest impact.

Here at Babson, I have also been working as a graduate assistant for the Leonard A. Schlesinger Fund for Global Healthcare Entrepreneurship, which has given me the opportunity to learn and think about how entrepreneurship can impact global health. This spring, I will be attending the 2017 Global Health and Innovation Conference, where I will have the chance to learn from leaders in global health, international development and social entrepreneurship. My hope is to share these lessons with the Babson community and put them to use in my future global health work.