Anula K. Jayasuriya is the co-founder and managing director of the Evolvence India Life Sciences Fund, an organization that invests in pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device, and related contract service companies based in India. A native of Sri Lanka who moved to the United States in 1976, Anula has had a lifelong interest in health care, pediatrics, and women’s health.
With an MD and a PhD in microbiology and molecular genetics from Harvard Medical School, Anula felt that an advanced degree in business would help her more clearly define her career trajectory. “For me, working solely in medical academics and research felt like a narrow career focus,” she recollects. “I wanted to understand how other parts of the world worked and how I could contribute.” Anula says that attending HBS opened up a realm of opportunities that she otherwise may not have experienced.
“When I graduated from HBS, health maintenance organizations (HMOs) were on the horizon and medicine was being infiltrated by business, which initially began as an adversarial interaction,” she recalls. “I saw tremendous room for opportunity at the intersection of health and business. With my background in medicine and business, I knew I could contribute beyond the research lab and direct patient care.” Anula remembers that some of her medical colleagues saw her career plan as disjointed, but she was undeterred and eventually found success at the juncture of health care and business management.
Interested in the future of “women’s health,” Anula says that it has always been considered a niche or only in the realm of OBGYNs. However, many threads are now coming together that demonstrate the medical impact of gender differences. “Diseases manifest differently in men and women, and the medications used to treat these illnesses have different reactions based on gender,” she says. “So much about gender roles is changing, and it’s impacting the way we communicate to patients. Demographic trends, with regard to health care IT that targets the end user, have evolved to reveal that women are now early adopters of technology, whereas before it traditionally had been men.” Anula points out that, from an economic standpoint, women make 85 percent of the health care decisions, they are more financially independent when compared to the past, and they live longer than men by five to eight years. “The economic opportunity is profound,” she notes.
Reflecting on HBS, Anula shares that one of her favorite cases was a startup story that profiled The Body Shop, which was launched by a woman in the 1970s. As an entrepreneurially minded medical scientist, health care executive, and investor, Anula recommends, “If you can’t find the right career fit or organization, find the opportunity gap in the industry and start your own venture.” She says that when it comes to life after HBS, the network is real. Even decades later, Anula is still in touch with many of her classmates and other alumni.