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 much from.

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 programs.

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!