If only careers were as simple as using Google maps: Turn left in 200m at undergraduate lane, take the second exit at the roundabout to mentorship road, proceed with caution speed bump ahead.
Admittedly my early career felt Google maps navigated! Many people struggle with their career choice. I was not one of them. As a child it was ingrained in me that 'Service to man is worship of God' and my GPS became ‘Atmano mokshartam jagad hitya cha’; ‘for one’s own welfare and the welfare of the world’. I could think of no profession better suited to me pursuing my goal of serving people and no better blend of the science and humanities. Medicine was the obvious choice.
Having left the University of Pretoria armed with a medical degree and joined the ranks of South African doctors in public service I was on the road most travelled by: intern, community service doctor, paediatric medical officer. Shuttled from post to post as a junior doctor is. I was a happy resident of 4/9 South African provinces and became progressively in awe of this beautiful piece of Earth at the tip of Africa and the resilience of her people.
My time in the South African public health system (that utilises 20% of the country’s health spending to service 80% of the population) constantly reminded me of the gap in quality health access. South Africa is a country of contrasts. It is one thing to know we have the highest Gini coefficient, it’s quite another to be reminded of it daily.
Here comes the detour. A Professor during my under-graduate studies told me that if we aspired to prevent disease, we’re in the wrong field. I acknowledge the point he makes: health goes far beyond hospitals… but then, so too should health professionals. And so, I switched off the Google Maps that would have seen me become a paediatrician and took a detour that would allow me to work on rather than in the healthcare system.
Inspired by system reinventors like Paul Farmer, I committed myself to reimagining health systems so that they can provide innovative, high-quality, equitable care that is context appropriate and context transforming.
My detour has seen me chasing dreams in the city of spires. I completed my MSc International Health and Tropical Medicine at Oxford earlier this year where I met 25 ‘different minded- same hearted’ professionals. Together, we grappled with the challenges and changes in global health and learnt the paradigms and tools of the trade.
My Oxford Master’s research explored disruptions to health services and changes in health utilisation in Indonesia, Nepal and Vietnam due to COVID-19 as part of a larger Wellcome funded project. The work was a powerful reminder of how Covid-19 and the related public health measures implemented to curb transmission have further exposed long existing cracks in our fragile healthcare system.
My decision for what next was a difficult one. Do I switch on the Google Maps and navigate myself back to the clinical environment? Do I feel equipped to enter the world of global health practice and in what capacity?
After months of bouncing ideas off my family, countless chats with industry experts and a few long walks; I realised that what was lacking most in my skills set was agile interdisciplinary and inter-sectorial thinking and a strong implementation focus. This is what directed me to Said business school’s impact-focused MBA.
The depth of the knowledge and skills gained in my MSc coupled with the breadth of experience in the MBA should be an on-ramp to lending my voice to the strengthening of resilient and robust national healthcare systems. These systems need to provide universal coverage with central purchasing power driven by public health needs coupled with the service provision efficiencies of competitive providers and underpin by a culture of accountability and transparency.
‘Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently...'
My MBA prep has included an ever expanding reading list: from Daniel Kahnemans 'Thinking fast and slow' to 'The winner takes all' and 'How Google works'. My partner (who is a far more likely MBA candidate with a background in finance) has taken to giving me tutorials on basic economic principles and some accounting rules. I’m slowly expanding my vocabulary so that I can navigate the mass of business acronyms and find the principles relevant to my dream chasing.
I’m using my MBA year as a recalibration of my internal Google Maps. It is a year to feel lost and challenged to ‘think different’. Most importantly, it is a year to meet fellow travellers who are crazy enough to think they can change the world.
Inspired by: ‘Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.’ — Steve Jobs, 1997