Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
Many students come to business school with a specific purpose. David Fajgenbaum, a medical researcher and physician, enrolled at the Wharton School to learn how to better fight deadly diseases. For Fajgenbaum, it is an intensely personal struggle because Fajgenbaum himself nearly passed away from Castleman disease, which attacks the immune system. Although Fajgenbaum has created a global research network to fund promising projects, he learned that business problems ranging from poor strategy to inefficiency, often doom such efforts. Now, Fajgenbaum is applying business tools and models to managing his research efforts. At Wharton, Fajgenbaum led a team whose Cure Accelerator business plan won the WBPC Social Impact Prize. And his Wharton classmates chose him to be the speaker at this year’s MBA commencement. He was also named among the “Top 30 Under 30” by Forbes.
Hometown: Raleigh, NC
Undergraduate Degree: Georgetown University (BS in Human Sciences). Also graduated from Oxford University (MSc in Public Health) and the University of Pennsylvania (MD)
Where did you work before enrolling in business school? National Students of AMF Support Network, Co-Founder & Executive Director and Castleman Disease Collaborative Network, Co-Founder & Executive Director
Where did you intern during the summer of 2014? Bristol-Myers Squibb, Plainsboro, NJ
Where will you be working after graduation? University of Pennsylvania, Research Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology & Oncology
What is your most memorable moment from business school? Getting the opportunity to share my work with my classmates through a “Peer Perspectives on Leadership” talk.
“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized that the greatest hurdles in the way of progress for biomedical research were business problems (lack of strategy, limited collaboration, inefficient use of tissue samples and funding).”
“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…less prepared to accelerate research discovery for deadly illnesses.”
What are your long-term professional goals? Drive forward research and cures for dozens of deadly illnesses by applying business strategies to biomedical research through a role in academia or with a biotech/pharmaceutical company.
Favorite Courses: Healthcare Entrepreneurship, Negotiations, Managerial Economics
Which academic or professional achievements are you most proud of? I applied business strategies to biomedical research to accelerate research progress through a first-of-its-kind model. I also conducted and published research into Castleman disease during medical school which has caused a paradigm shift in the way doctors and researchers think about the disease.
Who would you most want to thank for your success? June Kinney (associate director of the Health Care Management Program at Wharton), because she has helped to build the most incredible health care program from both an academic and professional development perspective. I also want to thank Arthur Rubenstein (Dean Emeritus & former executive vice president of the UPenn Health System), because he has provided me with incredible mentorship over the last four years.
Why did you choose this business school? Because of Wharton’s Health Care Management program and entrepreneurial focus.
What did you enjoy most about business school? Getting to work alongside so many talented and bright classmates to come up with innovative solutions to accelerate research for Castleman disease and build a model for accelerating rare disease research.
Fun fact about yourself: I was a Quarterback at Georgetown University in college (I don’t look like I ever played any sports any more!)
Favorite book: We Get It, a book I recently co-authored, which is a resource for young adults coping with grief.
Favorite movie: Borat (not even a close second)
Favorite musical performer: Top 40
Favorite television show: Breaking Bad
Favorite vacation spot: Trinidad & Tobago, where my entire extended family is from and currently lives
What are your hobbies? Work (driving forward biomedical research), hanging out with my wife (Caitlin) and friends
Twitter Handle: @davidfajgenbaum
What made David such an invaluable addition to the class of 2015?
“David is recognized as an inspirational leader by his classmates, faculty and basically by anyone who has come in contact with him. He has innovated the way research is done in rare diseases by building an entirely new way of managing and developing communities of researchers and patients. He has had a profound impact upon his classmates here because of his ability to articulate what is like to battle a rare disease and at the same time create new approaches to making life better for these patients. Many of our students have rallied around David and plan to continue working with the Castleman Network in a variety of ways. I don’t think there has ever been student in our program who has had this kind of impact on so many in our community.”
– June Kinney, associate director of the Health Care Management program at Wharton