It is not uncommon for me to be asked, "So, what do you
want to do when you grow up?” In response, I usually respond, "I want to
change health care." Anyone who knows me will understand my penchant for
exaggeration, but there is still some truth to my words. My friends in medicine
and non-profits are intrigued, though somewhat disturbed, at the idea of mixing
clinical care and business. Similarly, my friends in business are perplexed as
to why I would willingly accept five years of graduate school debt.
I have to admit that my interest in medicine and business
is, like many stories, not one that was perfectly planned. While at Harvard
College, I explored several careers in health care and clinical research.
During this time, the United States was going through a historical period where
it would decide whether to, and how to, reshape the health care system.
After taking a few courses in health policy, I realized that
clinical care was controlled and confined by forces that were greater than the
intimate interaction between a physician and patient. In fact, the discourse
about these forces were amongst people with very little context about the clinical
interaction, therefore physicians and patients were often frustrated by the
design of health care delivery systems. As an aspiring physician, I wanted to
understand these conversations. This led me to an internship at a strategy
consulting firm, where I worked for a year before starting medical school.
So, why study at Harvard three times? Well, Harvard programs
have expertise in just about any topic that I wanted to delve into. First, the
medical school is surrounded by world-class hospitals that have virtually every
specialty where I would learn from clinicians at the cutting-edge of their
field. As an undifferentiated student, I wanted the option to see a variety of
specialties before narrowing down my career. Moreover, Harvard Medical School
(HMS) faculty have been leading the national agenda on health care reform, as
demonstrated by how the Affordable Care Act was essentially modeled after
Massachusetts’s health reform.
In the first year at HMS, I took a seminar class where
leading faculty from HBS
and HMS discussed the key issues in health care management. I was consistently
fascinated by the changing context of health care delivery and the need for
clinicians with a solid understanding of finance, operations, information
technology, and management to assume leadership positions in these
organizations. Of course, the HBS professors were always engaging, and class
with them felt more like a theatrical performance than a lecture. During my second
year at the medical school, I applied to Harvard
Business School (which is the typical way that joint degree students apply)
and I started my RC year in the 4th year of the joint program.
Looking back, the HMS/HBS joint degree program has been an
amazing community for me and an integral part of my career development. This community includes not only students in
the joint degree program, but also medical students from other schools, as well
as physician-trainees and practicing physicians studying at HBS. Even though we
are all interested in medicine and business, our passions are so diverse that I
am constantly learning from everyone. These interests range from health care
administration, biotech, medical device innovations, health care delivery start-ups and health care financing. The broader communities
of HBS and HMS students are also filled with unique classmates who I learn so
Having attended three schools at Harvard, I can confidently
say that the resources at Harvard are amazing. There is no topic that I have
ever been interested in that I was not able to find within the broader
community. At the end of my graduate education, it is comforting to know that
more doors are open to me because of my affiliations to both the HBS and HMS
Overall, I believe that the best resource at Harvard is its
people. Though cliché, I am proud to say that I have met many lifelong friends,
including my husband, in this community!